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Do You Think Money No Enough is Singapore’s Oldest Film?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Singapore, 5 January 2010 - More than a decade after Money No Enough smashed local box office records, Singapore's top grossing local film of all time and the fifth behind Hollywood giants, has achieved a new iconic status – it was mistakenly thought to be Singapore's oldest film.

According to an online survey of over 300 respondents, Money No Enough emerged as the most cited answer when asked what the oldest local film is. In second place was yet another Jack Neo film, I Not Stupid, released in 2002. Eric Khoo's 1996 Mee Pok Man took third rank. Overall, more than half of respondents quoted a film made after the 1990s. Only a mere 16% of respondents named Malay and Chinese films from Singapore'sGolden Era in the '50s and '60s. But the correct answer is either Liu Peh Jing's Xin Ke (The immigrant) thought to have been made in 1926, or B.S. Rajhan's Laila Majnun made in 1933. Only 1% of respondents got this right.

While both films been lost to time owing to a lack of film preservation, its memory should not fade into obscurity. There is a clear lack of awareness about the nation's culturally rich film heritage and its urgent need to be saved.

These findings were carried out last month by a group of final-year students at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University (WKWSCI) for the Asian Film Archive, shedding new light on Singaporeans' attitudes towards their local film and its overlooked history. Additional interviews were conducted with eight film industry insiders ranging from critics, programmers and academics such as: Substation's Low Beng Kheng, A Nutshell Review's Stefan Shih, and Daniel Yun of Home Run Pictures; and a focus group with local filmmakers: Lee Chee Tian, Liao Jiekai, Sherman Ong, Swee Wee Keong and others.

Besides a lack of awareness, survey results showed a more worrying trend that Singaporeans appeared to be indifferent to their local film heritage and feel that local films are inferior and lacking in quality.

Film producer Daniel Yun said, “In the last 10 years, the Singapore film industry has been relatively active. We will close this decade with some achievements we can and should be proud of. The local film industry is of course still young and fragile. For an industry trying to find its place in the regional and international marketplace, staying viable is key to local practitioners. Going by the 80-20 rule, more than 80 percent of the local public are not aware of our film heritage, let alone understanding why and how we should preserve our Singapore films. With the dawn of the new decade, this indifference and ignorance should be corrected.”

However, there was recognition amongst the average respondent who agreed most strongly that local films deserve more exposure and support as they are important for Singapore. Amongst interviewees, there was a consensus in the overwhelming need for support for local film and its heritage, especially in a country boasting one of the world's highest cinema attendance rates. Nearly all interviewees highlighted Singaporeans' unfair comparison of local films to big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. In addition, they brought up the general lack of education in film appreciating, leading to a dearth of support for the local film scene.

There was across the board a clear call for greater outreach and publicity efforts to overcome these barriers and finally set local film heritage on the national agenda which already, the Asian Film Archive has tried to address with its existing calendar of school assembly talks and educators' workshops. These efforts could build on the Archive's many programmes to engage the public as every Singaporean has a part to play in saving our film for the future.

It is thus timely that the Asian Film Archive, a committed guardian of Singapore's film heritage, will celebrate its fifth anniversary in mid-January 2010 with a campaign aimed at raising advocacy for Singapore's film heritage. The Save Our Film campaign will highlight the nation's wealth of film history to educate and activate the public on the need to save our local film of the past, present and future through the sharing of our stories, experiences, works and memories.

Executive Director of the Asian Film Archive, Mr Tan Bee Thiam said: “We hope more people will tap on the services that the Archive provides in film preservation and heritage outreach. If the Archive holds our film memories, we want the public to know how we are preserving them and be involved in growing our film heritage collection. Through this campaign, we hope that people will come to realise the importance and urgency to save our films before they are damaged or lost. This is, therefore, an invitation to anyone and any organisation to contribute in any way to save and share our films and our memories.”

A series of projection bombs in the heartlands and a nationwide call for local film memories and memorabilia are planned for the guerilla campaign which will run for one and half months till the end of February. More information on the Archive's campaign and fifth anniversary will be available to the public from 15 January 2010 via the Archive's Official Website www.asianfilmarchive.org.

Issued by the Asian Film Archive.

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