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Ricochet features the late David Bowie exploring Singapore.

A local hawker turns into a martial-arts avenger in Ring of Fury.

Saint Jack is adapted from a 1973 novel by Paul Theroux.

Japanese film director Shohei Imamura follows one false lead after another in In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Malaysia.

An ambitious director puts his crew and lover into constant danger and depravity in The Wild Eye.

Experience classic films off-screen

State of Motion 2017 will take participants on an island-wide journey to locations featured in movies shot in Singapore.
Jan 6, 2017 5:50 AM

SOMETIMES, human beings are not the only actors in a film; locations can play a role too.

That thought is explored in this year's State of Motion (SOM), the Asian Film Archive's annual flagship film and visual arts series.

Themed Through Stranger Eyes, the second edition aims to showcase "different historical representations of Singapore in both international and local films, and highlight (the country's) history as a destination for foreign filmmakers in the 1960s-80s", according to SOM 2017's producer Thong Kay Wee.

Different perspectives

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That will be done through five works shot here during that period: The Wild Eye (1967), In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Malaysia (1971), Ring of Fury (1973), Saint Jack (1979) and Ricochet (1984).

The screenings, curated by Kent Chan and supported by film researcher Toh Hun Ping, is just one of three components of SOM which also includes exhibitions and tours.

On the line-up, Mr Thong explains: "The films, as the theme of Through Stranger Eyes suggests, are based on different perspectives from around the world and were chosen not just because of their images of Singapore, but also because it shows how our nation-state was perceived socially and politically by foreign and local filmmakers ... They present a post-independent Singapore that is recognisable but unfamiliar, capturing intriguing scenes of (the transformation taking place)."

Ricochet, for instance, includes footage from David Bowie's Serious Moonlight World Tour during the 1980s when it made a stop here.

In the experimental rockumentary, the late rocker has "strange" encounters with local culture as he grapples with the city's contradictions, befriends Chinese Opera performers, drifts through Far East Plaza (then the country's newest shopping mall) by riding its escalators, before heading to his troubled and almost-cancelled concert at the (now-defunct) National Stadium.

The screenings kick off from Friday and will take place at the Pavilion, a newly-built pop-up cinema and exhibition area at The Plaza, National Library Building.

The venue also serves as the starting point for a series of film history and art tours taking place around Singapore that correspond to the films being shown.

"State of Motion highlights not just interesting films that feature different historic representations of Singapore, but also the work of artists that have been inspired by film and history," explains Mr Thong.

Among those commissioned are local experimental band The Observatory, which will perform its piece Down The Up Escalator Forever at Far East Plaza where Ricochet was shot, and Jeremy Sharma, whose work Slow Fury will be installed at Labrador Battery, one of Ring of Fury's locations.

Others like Godwin Koay's Cover and Concealment and Joo Choon Lin's Glue Your Eyelids Together will be on display at public locations like Golden Mile Food Centre (which featured in In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Malaysia) and Hong Lim Park (The Wild Eye) respectively, so those who are unable to join the guided tour can check them out at their own leisure.

Document of time

"While the screening, tour and exhibition can be experienced independently, we highly encourage the public to visit all three components to have a more comprehensive experience," states Mr Thong.

He adds the concept for the 2017 edition came about as the team considered how Singapore became a destination for foreign filmmakers: "Cinema beyond its artistic and entertainment value, is a document of time - by juxtaposing past perceptions and cinematic images of Singapore with the contemporary, we hope for the public to discover various scenes as portrayed by these filmmakers, of a post-independent Singapore and appreciate our cinema history in the process."