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The Straits Times Life!: Restored Film For Charity Show
Monday, April 12, 2010

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the film preservation charity the Asian Film Archive will screen a local movie it restored from a sole surviving print.

The Cantonese romantic drama Moon Over Malaya, featuring a cast and crew from Singapore and Hong Kong, was made in 1957.

Its charity screening here will be the first public showing in over 50 years.

It stars Hong Kong actors Patrick Tse Yin, Nam Hong and Patsy Kar Ling and will be screened with newly-added English and Mandarin subtitles.

Iconic pre-independence locations such as Raffles Place, the Fullerton Building in Singapore and the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque in Johor are featured in the scenes.

The film chronicles the life of Ngok Ming(Patrick Tse), an idealistic man seeking funds from the wealthy to build schools in Malaya. He meets heiress Cho-Lin(Nam Hong) and they fall in love and marry, but theirs is a marriage not destined to be smooth.

Archive Director Tan Bee Thiam says the film is special because it represents the political and social currents flowing through Malaya at that time.

“It’s one of the films that paved a new path for Cantonese cinema in the 1950s,” he says, adding that the “modern and urbane” look of the film appeals to young cinema-goers born into a more affluent post-war generation.

Its use of talent from Malaya and Hong Kong also represents the trend of “global connections” in the movie-making process of the day, a practice that Singapore film-makers continue today, he adds.

The studio behind the production is also interesting, he says.

While most have heard of the famous Cathay and Shaw film studios, this film was not made by either. It came from lesser-known Kong Ngee Company, a production house founded by Singapore brothers Ho Khee-yong and Ho Khee-siang.

“It’s a pity that after Kong Ngee Company closed down in the 1980s, people forget that there was this third studio in Singapore, apart from Shaw and Cathay.”

Mr Tan adds that the archive’s fifth year has seen it collect, along with Moon Over Malaya, over 1,500 titles from South-east Asia as of the end of last year.

Since it was set up, it has found partners in the National Archives of Singapore, the National Library Board and the Singapore Film Commission.

It trains students to curate and screen films they select from the archive and it also conducts courses in film literacy for teachers.

Among other projects, it produces DVDs of Short Films by young Singapore film-makers to promote their works and to raise funds.

The Asian Film Archive is a charity with a focus on South-east Asian film. The National Museum is also a body that archives and screens Asian films, but it is run by a statutory board, the National Heritage Board.

Mr Zhang Wenjie, the programmes manager of the Museum’s Cinematheque arm, says that with so much work remaining to be done in the area of film preservation, “a combination of public, institutional and private interests should each contribute their time, energy and funds to further this cause.”

Screening of MOON OVER MALAY(1957)
Where: The Cathay
When: Tomorrow 7pm
Admission: Tickets at $50 each from the Asian Film Archive. Go to info@asianfilmarchive.org or call 6777-3243

By John Lui

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