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.”