Historicizing Singapore cinema: questions of colonial influence and spatiality
ABSTRACT Films produced since the 1990s revival of Singapore cinema have been interpreted through a historical backdrop consisting of the nation’s rapid development, participation in the global economy and authoritarian one-party governance. Film historians have described these texts by relying on discourses associated with globalization and postmodernism. This paper finds that perspective of Singaporean films to have overlooked colonialism as a significant part of its cultural identity and argues that greater consideration of that history can not only illuminate contemporary films, but also expand film scholarship to include understudied films from Singapore’s ‘golden age’ of filmmaking from the 1950s to early 1970s. The history of Singapore cinema should thus be re-periodized. By analyzing the heuristic function of colonial urbanity in films from both eras, I explore how spatiality provides a common thread that runs through local experience, identity, culture and cinema.
KEYWORDS: Singapore, Cinema, History, Colonialism, Globalization
Gerald Sim is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Florida Atlantic University, where he specializes in American cinema, national cinema, critical theory, film music and sound. His writing has appeared in Film Quarterly, Framework, Asian Cinema and Screening the Past.