There’s a new cinema in town. Named Oldham Theatre, it’s managed by the non-profit organisation Asian Film Archive (AFA) and will be dedicated towards showcasing lesser-known films produced by Asian directors. While films screened at Oldham are not necessarily exclusives, do expect plenty of unique one-offs, including works that will premiere there or archival films that have not been screened before.
As for the theatre itself, it’s housed within the newly revamped National Archives of Singapore building, which sits on Fort Canning (it’s right around the corner from ROM). The 134-seater hall is equipped with 4K digital and 35mm film format projection capabilities, which means older works captured on 35 mm prints and which have no digital formats can be screened – much in line with the AFA’s mission to preserve and promote the breadth of Asian films.
Before the inauguration of Oldham Theatre this weekend – it opens May 18 with the programme Singular Screens, a slew of international films curated for the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) – we speak to AFA executive director Karen Chan on what we can expect from the new venue.
What differentiates Oldham Theatre from existing spaces:
“The screening programmes presented at Oldham will largely be curated and focused along
certain themes, collections, directors, regions and time frames. These curatorial oversights
will be undertaken by AFA programmers, by guest curators, or as part of a specialised
programmes with our partners.
Apart from screenings, AFA’s programmes are intended to provide platforms for discussions
and conversations on different issues and concerns. There will be post-screening discussions,
organised talks with filmmakers, curators and programmers, academics, artists and
symposiums on specific topics, with film as a key point of exploration. Through these
specialised events, AFA hopes to generate greater awareness and understanding of our work
and why there is an urgency and need for film preservation.”
The story behind the name:
The Canning Rise premises was originally occupied by Anglo-Chinese Primary School in
1887. The name Oldham stems from one of the initial missionaries sent to Singapore, Reverend
William Fitzjames Oldham, who set up Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore in 1886. As a mark of respect for Bishop Oldham, the school hall was named after him. When NAS (National Archives Singapore) took over the building in 1995, it retained the use of the name of Oldham for its sole lecture theatre.”
How often screenings will be held:
“Screenings will be held weekly on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There will also
be screenings on some public holidays. Tickets are priced at $10 for the general public while
seniors, students and NSmen are entitled to a concessionary price of $9.”
AFA’s take on the current Singapore film scene:
“There is a general optimism about Singapore’s film scene. It is heartening to see many
Singapore filmmakers and artists who have succeeded in finding opportunities to produce
high-quality, internationally-recognised, innovative, and challenging works. There are now
commercially viable mainstream films that do not necessarily lack in artistry.
The infrastructure and hardware are available, and these are advantageous to Singapore
filmmakers. However, the challenge is for filmmakers to weave and tell their stories in ways
that will impact the public, so that these films will continue to be remembered in time to
come. This is where film archives like the AFA play an important role – as a resource of inspiration.”
What audiences can expect to catch at Oldham Theatre in coming months:
Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA) 2019: Singular Screens
“Curated by AFA, Singular Screens features an international selection of exceptional new
works celebrating independent and singular films from Singapore and internationally.
Some of the films that will be making their Singapore premieres at Singular Screens include:
• Demons by Daniel Hui, Singapore, 2018 (Busan International Film Festival; Berlinale
• The Dead and The Others by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, Brazil and
Portugal, 2018 (Jury Special Prize (Un Certain Regard) – Cannes International Film
• Present.Perfect. by Zhu Shengze, USA, Hong Kong, 2019 (Winner of Tiger
Competition, International Film Festival Rotterdam)
• Black Mother by Khalik Allah, USA, 2018 (International Film Festival Rotterdam,
Toronto International Film Festival)
June – July 2019
State of Motion 2019: A Fear of Monsters film screenings
The State of Motion 2019: A Fear of Monsters exhibitions took place in January and February
2019 as part of Singapore Art Week 2019. It investigated the histories and trajectories of
Asian horror and focused on the monsters at the intersections of art, popular culture and
cinema. As an extension from the film history and contemporary art exhibitions presented
this year, AFA will be showcasing a constellation of Asian-based monster films at Oldham
Some titles include:
• Original 1954 Godzilla, restored version premiering in Singapore
• Hausu (House, 1977), a Japanese horror comedy cult classic
• Classic Malay horror films from Shaw Malay Productions – Sumpah Orang Minyak
by P Ramlee and Cathay-Keris’ Sumpah Pontianak by B.N Rao
• Folklore, the first horror anthology series by HBO Asia, featuring acclaimed directors
from six Asian countries. The screenings of the Folklore series are courtesy of HBO
June – July 2019
Reframe: Migratory Times
Migratory Times presents a series of Chinese-language fictional films showing transitional
times in Southeast and East Asia. The settings of the films span the Ming dynasty, the Sino-Japanese war and its aftermath, colonial and postcolonial modernity, revolution and
Some titles include:
• 小城之春 by Fei Mu (Spring in a Small Town, China, 1948), restored by China Film
Archive and widely regarded as one of the greatest Chinese films ever made.
• 傾城之戀 by Ann Hui (Love in a Fallen City, Hong Kong, 1984) starring Chow Yun Fatt
and Cora Miao.
• 华侨血泪 by Cai Wen-jin (Blood and Tears of Overseas Chinese, Malaya, 1946), restored
by China Film Archive, subtitled by AFA.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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