Romano Archives: Japanese footage from the Battle of Singapore, Feb 1942

Coloured WW2 footage by Romano Archives, from The Battle of Singapore, without sound or narration.

The footage features air, ship and artillery bombardment, amphibious landings, infantry movement, banzai, tanks rolling into the city past the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles and “Tiger of Malaya,” General Tomoyuki Yamashita.

You can see some of the footage used in this documentary, WWII Battlefront Pacific: Fall of Singapore (2001; Madacy Entertainment):

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Shelob and Aragog – two large spiders undergraduates do remember

I never know which example I will spontaneously summon during a lecture as I have a decent memory for incidents and stories. Sometimes though, undergraduates have to help me out.

Flu-meds can addle my mind and a case in point was my drugged state at the recent LSM1103 Biodiversity lecture on arthropods. I decided to call up a scene of a giant spider from a popular movie I was pretty sure most undergraduates had seen – Harry Potter.

From my fogged mind, I painted a scene of Harry Potter waving a sword heroically at a large spider.

But, really, it was Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings.

Excitement erupted at my confusion and as I struggled with the spider’s name, the undergrads helpfully provided that it was Aragog, and not Aragon.

After the lecture I shared these clips on the class Facebook page to acknowledge the confusion I had been in – there are two spiders in two movies, Shelob the ancient giant spider which Samwise Gangee battles valiantly in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and the ageing acromantula Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

I love how the clips are available so easily to clarify. And spider do have a bad rep.

The point of mentioning any of this was for the biodiversity undergrads to realise they had actually seen chelicerate morphology depicted on the big screen. Armed with that knowledge of anatomy, they could now think of the ways to outwit a humoungous spider if it was out to get them.

Next time they watch the movies, they’ll think like biologists.

Ilo Ilo, a heartwarming bittersweet movie dredges up feelings from the 90’s

It was a weeknight fund-raising film screening for Crescent and my friend Oi Yee had proffered a few of us tickets. All I knew about Ilo Ilo was that it was a story about a Filipino maid working for a Singapore family.

Trepidation. Was it going to be tragic? A film award winner probably meant something moody, didn’t it?

And I slept in the last few movies I watched on a weeknight. In a restful dark room, sleep was inevitable.

Then the movie started. I was awake from the first second, not wanting to blink to miss a scene.

It was engaging, and as ordinary details unfolded in familiar lives, it was compelling and fascinating.

It resonated of an older Singapore, somehow projecting a familiar, restful feel. Layers which I now missed, like so many others in Singapore, which had come and gone.

I remembered a time when many talked about how Filipino maids were surrogate mums in busy Singaporean families.

Oh, this was 1997 recession-hit Singapore.

Gallery - ILO ILO - A Film By Anthony Chen

During the post-movie discussion, we revealed that we had all connected to the movie very well. And the “younger ones” who grew up in the 90’s loved it all the more. The reminiscent scenes will resonate with Singaporeans, they said.

However, a presumably international audience at Cannes had already received it with great enthusiasm, delivering a 15-minute standing ovation, despite three blackouts.

Everyone loves a good story. And this one also speaks of universal themes. Fuelled from his own memories, it turns out. How sweet.

Great job by Anthony Chen, and the cast and crew.

Antidote for a stressful week – thanks Oi Yee!

“PULAU HANTU” tonight, Sunday 27 June 2010: 10pm on Okto

If you're not a soccer fan there are other delights on television. This is Esan Sivalingam's "Pulau Hantu" (2008) – this is not about coral reefs or the like but some favourite Singapore fare. See the IMDB listing here. I have yet to see it myself but the trailer looks like it would be fun to watch! I can't change the channel from the England vs Germany game as there will be several English fans with me, glued to the set. 

The blurb goes:

Pulau Hantu (lit. translation: Ghost Island) tells the tale of a group of ragtag soldiers who, whilst searching for an AWOL section, inadvertently disturb an unholy grave site.

Day turns to night and the mildly forested area becomes a thick, dense jungle. Ill-equipped and without an inkling as to why these supernatural events have cursed them, they race against time within the cursed island in their fight for survival uncovering past mysteries and hidden secrets – while being terrorized by the revenge-seeking spirits of a native woman and her child who were victimized and murdered by a witch doctor over a century ago.

Invictus (2009) – early steps in uniting post-apartheid South Africa: the 3rd Rugby World Cup

“Invictus” is a film based on John Carlin’s book, “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation.”

Directed by Clint Eastwood (who is really churning them out these days) the film stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela (who else?) and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar. It describes how South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela threw his weight behind the 3rd Rugby World Cup in 1995 in an effort to help unite the country and reconcile white South Africans. The county had witnessed its debut democratic elections of 1994 which had ushered in a new era but also carried seething wounds of its apartheid past.

While the film provides hints about the context, it may be a little understated to young viewers. I’d suggest picking up Richard Attenborough’s “Cry Freedom” (1978) to gain some appreciation for how different things were.

Rugby, during apartheid South Africa was played mainly by white South Africans who treated it like a religion. However, the South African team had been isolated, having been banned from international competition as a result of the country’s apartheid regime – the Commonwealth of Nations Gleneagles Agreement in 1977 discouraged sporting contact and competition with South Africa. The restriction worked both ways and players from other countries were not allowed to play in South Africa. Singapore’s own 1978 Sportsman of the Year, Song Koon Poh, joined an international group, the Tokkie Dragons, to tour South Africa and was slapped with a life ban as a result.

So the 3rd Rugby World Cup was the first time South African would be participating in an international competition. The team automatically qualified as hosts and no one really expected them to get far. However, they defied all expectations by beating a strong Australian side in the opening game and eventually worked their way to the finals at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on 24th of June, 1995.

Facing them on the pitch with the opening Maori war chant, the Haka (accurately re-created in the film with the help of a Kiwi), were an All-Blacks team at the top of their game. This included the towering Jonah Lomu, introduced to the world like a thunderbolt bursting through the slightest gaps. During the semi-finals, Jonah Lomu had bowled over poor-tackling three-quarters mercilessly to shatter a shocked England. The New Zealanders were technically brilliant in their forward play as well and seemed unstoppable. The Lomu factor was alluded to in the film but it would have been better explained with the image of one of his blazing runs – for sure tapes of the NZ-England game were well studied by the South Africans.

Mandela who was working hard to bring about reconciliation in the country, saw even more potential in the tournament. The sight of Mandela in a No. 6 green and gold Springboks jersey during the finals was shocking even to viewers around the world familiar with the country’s history and political developments. As the mainly white stadium chanted “Nelson! Nelson!”, you could appreciate Mandela’s wisdom in healing the soul of the country and the role he knew sports could play in uniting the nation.

This was echoed in the post-match interview on the pitch with team captain Francois Pienaar. In an interview broadcast around the world, he was asked by SABC reporter David van der Sandt.: “Francois, we had 65,000 South Africans here today, tremendous support.” He replied, “David, we didn’t have 60,000 South Africans, we had 43 million South Africans.”

Invictus opens in Singapore on 7th January 2010.
Thanks for the video link, Alvin!