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National Museum of Singapore presents films set in World War 2!

By Say Peng  /  15 Jan 2018 (Monday)

Film still from Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983)

For the very first time, the National Museum of Singapore will be presenting a special selection of films which documents and recollects the experience of World War Two and its aftermath in the Pacific. Programmed by the Asian Film Archive, Witness to War: Memories and Screens will showcase 13 films that present memories of World War Two across different film genres, including several films that have never been screened in Singapore before.
Complementing the ongoing blockbuster exhibition Witness to War: Remembering 1942, the film programme continues the compelling narrative on Singapore's fall against the larger backdrop of upheaval in the Pacific region, through a captivating mode of storytelling on the silver screen. The diverse selection of films traces the historical development from the bombing of Pearl Harbour to Hiroshima in a collection of narratives from Singapore and its regional neighbours, and extending across continents to Britain, Japan and America.
Director of the National Museum of Singapore, Angelita Teo, said, “Film is an especially powerful tool in capturing memories and sentiments. With Witness to War: Memories and Screens, we hope to highlight the ways that different nations remember the shared history of World War Two, as well as offer our visitors a wider perspective and understanding of this key event that changed the world.”

Film still from Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959)

From first-in-Singapore screenings to Hollywood and cult favorites
Some of the films making their debut in Singapore include Spirit of the Overseas Chinese, a rare document of Singapore cinema which was recently discovered in the vaults of the China Film Archive; Devils on the Doorstep, which clinched the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and will be debuting its director’s cut; Momotaro, Sacred Sailors, which is the first ever Japanese animated feature film and follows the adventures of the titular character and his loyal sailors during the war; and Three Godless Years, a Tagalog favourite that touches on love lost and found during the turbulent period.

Visitors can also look forward to blockbusters such as Tora! Tora! Tora!, an iconic war film that dramatically retells the Pearl Harbour attack from both sides of the conflict; Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, featuring the late international icon David Bowie in his role as a prisoner-of-war and the cultural clashes at the internment camp; and The Thin Red Line, a Hollywood ensemble film by auteur Terrence Malick that gives a meditative view on the war.

Film still from The Thin Red Line (1998)

Collaborative project with LASALLE College of the Arts, The School of Creative Industries
Witness to War: Memories and Screen will also feature a pop-up installation developed by third-year Arts Management students from LASALLE College of the Arts, The School of Creative Industries, under the tutelage of the National Museum as part of its efforts to cultivate the interest of youth audience in the cultural sector. Responding to films presented in Witness to War: Memories and Screens and the survivors’ accounts featured in the exhibition Witness to War: Remembering 1942, De:code is a pop-up installation based on wartime communication. Through teaching us how to communicate in Morse code, the installation explores how covert wartime communication was a matter of life and death. It emphasizes the importance of remembering wartime experience, be it through film or through an appreciation of how our landscapes and modes of communication have changed. From 20–28 January, visitors are invited to drop by De:code at the Gallery Theatre Foyer of the National Museum and try their hand at crafting and deciphering messages in Morse code. They may also leave behind their secret messages about Witness to War: Memories and Screens for fellow Morse code readers!
The Witness to War: Remembering 1942 exhibition is open to the public until 25 March 2018. Witness to War: Memories and Screens will be held at the National Museum of Singapore from 13 to 27 January 2018 with free admission to the public. Registration is required and ticketing information can be found at nationalmuseum.sg.
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