Monday, August 29, 2005

We celebrate the power of filmmaking in Singapore

"In the wrong hands film can have a powerful impact"
- Former Information and Art Minister George Yeo, 1998

Of course Mr Yeo did not mean that in the right hands, film will have negligible impact. In fact, no other country recognises and honours the value of filmmaking more than Singapore. That the potent combination of moving pictures and sound can influence minds, document reality and propel the nation forward is not lost on our nation's leaders.

For example, in his most important speech of the year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used video clips to exhort Singaporeans to strive for a higher standard of service. The audience responded favourably to the two short clips "Tau Gay Not Enough" and applauded wildly when animated fireworks exploded in the the skyline of an artist impression of Marina Bayfront.

The ever-efficient Singapore police force also recognises the value of filmmaking in documenting evidence. In my video 'Singapore Rebel,' there were scenes of plainclothes police officers filming members of the public outside the Tanglin Police Station. Here in this picture, a young officer in civilian wear practises his camera skills at the book launch of opposition figure Chee Soon Juan.

Even the tools used for filmmaking is honoured by the Singapore authorities. In their investigation into my video 'Singapore Rebel', the police has asked that I hand over all tapes and even the camera to them. The video camera does not store images on its own. It requires cassette tapes to record and store these images. That the police would want to seize an empty video camera, is to my mind, their endorsement of the power of filmmaking. First the tapes, then the camera and finally the filmmaker himself..

Update : My tapes and camera were handed over to the police at the Police Cantonment Complex at about 6.45 pm this evening. When asked if I can get my camera back soonest, ASP Chan said "No promise."


ben said...

Hi Martyn

The relationship between the PAP and film-making is a curious one. They have never embraced cinema as a propoganda tool the way that other regimes have, preferring to focus on grooming a TV industry to suit their needs and messages.

They seemed to have decided early on that film was difficult to control and for a time apparently discouraged it's growth as an industry.

The Screen Singapore season has brought this home - no films in the 80s at all, and going back earlier than that, why was the film-making infrastructure that Shaw and Cathay-Keris spent 20 years building up allowed to be abandoned?

It's hard to draw conclusions - but perhaps the PAP just never liked movies very much. However, things are clearly changing - as you starkly illustrate.

Good luck and thanks for the blog


Martyn See said...

By all accounts, Singapore cinema thrived in the fifties and early sixties. Curiously, after independence in 65, it waned and eventually collapsed. Not a single Singapore film was made in the 80s. Some blamed it on the closure of Shaw and Cathay-Keris Studios, others on advent of Hollywood blockbusters and video. The truth is out there. (The old Shaw Studio at Jalan Ampas off Balestier Road is still around, dilapidated and abandoned - a sad reflection of how Singapore has forgotten its own film history.)

This amnesia is further illustrated by the fact that Screen Singapore was conceived by a French expatriate with a private arts events company. The Media Development Authority only came on board later.