6 September 2007
Cathay-Keris had its studios along East Coast Road and filmed its movies mainly in Singapore and Malaya between 1953 to 1973. Over a hundred Malay movies were produced with the very first film, Buloh Perindu in 1953.
The Cathay-Keris Malay Classic films embrace a variety of genre ranging from romance, comedy, period dramas, horror and suspense. Most notable were the Pontianak films that kept audiences horrified and yet entranced.
Film stars such as Maria Menado, Wahid Satay, Rose Yatimah, Ummi Kalthoum, Latiffah Omar, Siput Sarawak, M Amin, Matt Sentol, S Roomai Noor and directors such as L Krishnan, B S Rajhans, B N Rao, K N Baskarn and Hussein Haniff were household names in the region.
In an effort to conserve the Cathay-Keris Malay Classic movies, Cathay Organisation has donated 90 of its Classic Malay titles to the Singapore Asian Film Archive in 16mm and 35mm formats.
As movies in the first half of the 20 th century were produced on highly flammable film base, the Asian Film Archive will provide the required careful climate-controlled storage of the films in their facilities as well as cataloguing, archiving and restoration.
Preservation of Cathay’s classic movies is not a new initiative by Cathay Organisation as the company had donated its Chinese Classics to the Hong Kong Film Archive in 2004. Most of the Chinese titles, which were produced in the same period as the Malay titles in Cathay’s film studios in Hong Kong, have been digitally re-mastered to European broadcast standards in an ongoing effort to ensure that these classics will be available for generations to come.
The objective for the Cathay Malay classic titles is similar; to preserve them so that future generations may enjoy films made in an era past.
Cathay Organisation will continue to have owning rights of the Malay classic titles whilst the Asian Film Archive will store, restore and make available these films for non-commercial purposes such as research and education. Cathay Organisation will consider these requests as well as enquiries for footages for commercial usage on a case to case basis.
Says Suhaimi Rafdi, President, Cathay Organisation Holdings Ltd, “We are glad to be donating our Malay titles to the Asian Film Archive. This collaboration ensures that the films will be kept in conditions which are the most appropriate to preserve them. It is through institutions such as the Asian Film Archive who have the expertise that we are able to ensure the longevity of these classic films, which are so much a part of Singapore’s film industry history. We also hope that through this initiative, there will be renewed interest in such classic films. And perhaps even interest to remake some of these titles and adapt them to present times.“
Dr Kenneth Paul Tan, Chairman, Asian Film Archive says, "The Asian Film Archive is proud of its role in preserving the Cathay-Keris Malay classic titles including films by notable filmmakers of the time like M. Amin, Hussein Haniff, and L. Krishnan. The significance of these works for Singapore's film history is unquestionable. The collection's value lies not only in its artistic merit, but also in the way it serves as a cinematic record of Singapore's social, political, and cultural history. Cathay's donation of these Malay films for archiving is of great moment in the urgent effort to preserve Singapore's film history. We are pleased to work with our partner, National Archives of Singapore, whose technical expertise and preservation assistance will be key to the successful archiving of this important collection that will, in turn, create greater awareness and support for the preservation of Singapore's other cinematic treasures."