Monday, June 20, 2016


By Mansor Puteh

It is quite obvious that the director of this Singapore film does not know that much about films and how to make them.

The script is bad. The intention for them to want to produce a film on the separation of Singapore from Malaysia was good to show their side of the story.

The budget for the film must be quite big but most of it probably went to the construction of the sets and the props, all of which were not utilized fully.

And no wonder this film called simply ‘1965’ was not shown in the cinemas in Malaysia and is only available in DVD.

It looks much like a made-for-TV movie.

And I do not know how it was accepted in Singapore when it was released in the cinemas, if it managed to make a killing at the box office there.

This film surely won’t have much attraction to viewers in countries other than in Singapore and Malaysia because the perspective is narrow and the story does not have an international appeal.

I would think that there would have been a gala premiere in Singapore before its general release which was attended by the who’s who in the politics of the country.  

Maybe there wasn’t any of that.

Unfortunately I did not see the LPF certificate on the copy I had bought which might mean that it is not a film that had been submitted to the film censorship authorities for approval or even rejection.

But after fifty years of leaving Malaysia, Singapore has not yet managed to create enough talent in filmmaking to allow them to come up with such a film.

And their television drama serials produced by their MediaCorp organization which are shown on Malaysian television are even worse – they are too Hong Kong and nothing original or Singaporean in them to make them appealing to the serious viewers!

The Chinese characters in the television dramas could be the Chinese from any other Chinese country.

At least the Phua Chu Kang sitcom series had some originality and Singaporean characteristics, not just because of the Singlish or Singapore-English that they use but the issues discussed.   

It would be odd if the characters speak in proper English in this series.

I got a DVD of this film and watched it and found it wanting on all aspects.

I quite like the scenes with Lee Kuan Yew in them, but the director was not truthful when he changed the speech Kuan Yew gave on television which was in Melayu to English.

The Singapore actor Lim Kay Tong who played Kuan Yew is good; and he surely can read some dialogue in Melayu for the scenes which had Kuan Yew speaking in the language, even if he could not speak in it, by memorizing and some coaching.

The other thing that is not proper is how thin and unusual the plot is especially since the incidents that happened in Singapore and Tanah Melayu are still fresh in our minds and the interpretations that we also have of them.

In 1965 most of the police constables in Tanah Melayu and also Singapore were Melayu but in this film they are Chinese with one of them an immigrant from China.

Immigrants from China had not been known to join the Royal Malayan Police force then and all of the constables lived in barracks. In fact there were also so few Indians in the police force at that time.

But in this film they live on their own.

And if I am not mistaken, the uniform the police in ‘1965’ wear are also not the right type as they are of the later edition with the color of the shirt blue and khaki short pants. How could the producers make such a glaring mistake?

Even the design for the police station was not correct, as we know it. There are no photos of the Yang diPertuan Agong and prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, on the walls.

Most of the set designs are good and exact but they and the props are not fully utilized as there is limited movement and business to allow the characters to do that.

And as a direct result, the characters appear to be one-sided and wooden with their motivations hidden and non-existent.

No one knows why Sergeant Cheng, the immigrant from China acts the way he does, that he seems to have some negative feelings towards the Melayu.

Why did he join the police force then knowing that it is Melayu-dominated, although in the film it is Chinese-dominated?

In the end, he and also the other central characters in the film ended up looking frigid and one-dimensional lacking in life or thinking, as much as the inspector who is an Englishman.   

And the most startling denunciation of this film is how the scenes are merely like photographs that were published in newspapers that are given live, with no reverse shot and preceding scenes or even shots; so everybody in the scenes are already standing or seated. 

The director and producers of this film should have enlisted some Malaysians to join the production to make it a better one that is more palatable and truthful that can be accepted by the viewers of both countries since the story is from an important and interesting episode of both countries.

Maybe they did not think it was necessary as they had their own ideas on how to twist the history of this episode, to suit their own desires and intentions.

This is a big mistake. It could have been a much better film if the producers had managed to get some input from their Malaysian counterpart. Unfortunately this did not happen.

Any Melayu director would have looked at the episode in the history of Singapore in a totally different way giving it a special emphasis and look. Most of all, he can create a better version of the episode which resulted in Singapore being expelled from Malaysia by the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman who is never mentioned in ‘1965’.   

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