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SEPIA-TINTED TOUR: The Merdeka Bridge (above) was featured in the 1960 Cathay-Keris film Che Mamat Parang Tumpol (Black Hand Gang) and will be visited on the bus tour.
SEPIA-TINTED TOUR: Sumpah Pontianak (above, The Curse of Pontianak, 1958) was shot at Kampong Siglap, one of the locations the bus tour will cover.

Ride down movie memory lane

A bus takes you to sites where Cathay-Keris films were once shot - with artworks to boot.
Jan 1, 2016 5:50 AM

IN the final scene of 1965 black-and-white Cathay-Keris film Chinta Kaseh Sayang (My Darling Love), a beautiful and bored adulteress (played by screen siren Latifah Omar) strolls down Queen Elizabeth Walk alone, having just broken up with her married lover. A young man approaches her and chats her up. And before you know it, she's taken up with him, her previous affair quickly fading from her memory like a bittersweet dream. The film promptly ends.

"It's an unusually frank film about the sexual mores of the time. And in some ways, Singapore was a more liberal country then than it is now," says film historian Toh Hun Ping. "But, more than just a reflection of lives and attitudes, a film like this helps you see the incredible physical transformation that Singapore has undergone. These are sights and places long gone, and best recalled through photographs and old movies."

Mr Toh watched countless black-and-white Singapore films before selecting a few shot on locations he felt would fascinate movie junkies, history buffs and other like-minded souls. These locations will be explored in Singapore's first movie history-cum-art bus tour on which participants will be taken to locations such as the Queen Elizabeth Walk, a seafront promenade next to the Padang, where the scene was shot.

A tour guide will explain the scene to the participants, but they would also have already been shown excerpts of the films before the bus ride began to get a better grasp of their stories. At each stop too, there will be a newly commissioned artwork created by an artist in response to the film. You get all this for the ticket price of S$12.

The bus tour, called State of Motion, will take place during the Singapore Art Week, from Jan 16 to 24. Headed by Thong Kay Wee of Asian Film Archive, with support from the government and the Lee Foundation, the tour takes you to five locations altogether, each one an important site for five Cathay-Keris films.

The five sites include a part of East Coast where comedian Mat Sentol directed a scene from Mat Tiga Suku(Mat Crazy, 1965), as well as Kampong Siglap, where the horror flick Sumpah Pontianak (The Curse of Pontianak, 1958) was filmed. Mr Toh says: "The kampung is no more, but there is a field where there are tombstones, one of which is believed to be that of the kampung head." Responding to the film and site, installation artist Stephanie Jane Burt will construct a replica of a kampung hut as an art installation.

There is also Merdeka Bridge, the bridge over Kallang River that links the CBD area and the east of Singapore via Nicoll Highway. Here is where a part of the 1960 film Che Mamat Parang Tumpol (Black Hand Gang) was filmed and where artist Hafiz Osman will create an old-style lavatory as a reminder of the past.

Kent Chan, the curator of the art segment of the tour, says: "The wooden lavatory, in this case, has more significance than you might think. In the past, the East of Singapore was filled with kampungs and looked very different from the CBD area with its tall shiny buildings. One might go to the toilet and look through a hole in the wall of the toilet and see the city. One might then dream of getting a job there. The Merdeka Bridge was what divided the two - the kampung area and the city. Crossing that bridge to go to the city meant something to people."

"Essentially, we hope that the bus tour will set people off on a journey of their own of discovering Singapore's past through our local films. The country has changed so much in 50 years; it feels as if some of the locations didn't even exist at all."

The guided bus tour, State of Motion, will depart from the National Library on Jan 16, 17, 23 and 24 every half hour from 10.30am to 3.30pm. The tour lasts for 3 hours. For more information, call Asian Film Archive on 6777-3243. Tickets at S$12 are available from