STOP10 Apr 2017: 'Two Sides of the Bridge' (桥的两岸) by Chen Ge and Lim An

Photo courtesy of Wong Han Min

Very little can be searched about this 1976 film on the internet. It was after all, a Singapore Chinese film made during a part of the century when Malay cinema ruled the big screens. It also featured an all-local cast, which made it difficult to beat popular Hollywood or Taiwanese films of the era. But Two Sides of the Bridge (桥的两岸) still remains as one of few prominent Chinese films made during the studio-era in our film history, alongside another Chinese film made in the 60s, Lion City (狮子城). In fact, Two Sides marked the tail end of studio-era films in Singapore.


Produced by two-journalists, Chen Ge (or Chen Chang Ming 陈昌明) and Lim An (林岸) under Chong Gay Theatres Ltd., this $200,000 film (pretty sizeable budget at that time!) tells the story of man who leaves Kelantan to come to Singapore in search of love and a brighter future. His love comes in the form of Lee Lin Fong, a factory girl, and he found himself a job as a civil servant. In the end, the lure of money got the better of him and led him down the dark alley into things on the other side of the law. A tragic migrant worker story.


Among disparate links with incomplete information about the film online, I did come across a review of the film written on 16 December 1976. Apart from praising the efforts of the filmmaker (though it said the premise was not original), something the anonymous writer said, turned out to be rather ironic.


从这部影片的拍制成功看来,我们认为发展本地电影事业的前途是光明的。综艺机构董事长林日顺先生曾经在电视座谈会上这样指出:“…在本地可以拍片,这一点是没疑问的。邻国,大多数都在发展电影事业,我国的条件不会比他们差,我们有好人才,如写剧本方面的,写出来也有相当水平。剧本方面是可以解决的。再加上我们‘电视台’培养好多演员出来,本地艺术团体方面也有不少人才。所以,我认为在新加坡拍片是没有问题的”。


“From the successful completion of this film, it is evident that the prospects for the Singapore film industry is bright. Mr Lim Jit Sun (Managing Director of Chong Gay) said,”There is no doubt filmmaking is possible in Singapore. The filmmaking industry is taking off in Malaysia and I don’t think we are worse off compared to our neighbours - we have talent, such as good scriptwriters, who are able to produce good stories. We also have many acting talents who have been honed from television. Our arts scene is also not short of talent. I don’t see why we can’t make our own films here.”


40 years on, one cannot help but look back at the comment with a smirk. Singapore’s coming-of-age in movie-making is still a work-in-progress, though it’s certainly come a long way. The National Museum of Singapore has kindly organised a re-screening of Two Sides this month to help mark this 40-year journey. Here are the details of the screening:

Date: 8 April (Saturday)
Time: 2 pm
Event: National Museum Cinematheque Selects
Venue: National Museum Gallery Theatre
The post-screening dialogue will be conducted in Mandarin.

Free tickets can be collected at the National Museum of Singapore (Visitor Services Counter, Level 1, open daily, 10 am to 6.30 pm) from today.

Tickets are also available online at https://tinyurl.com/CinSelectsApr

Tickets are available on a first-come first-served basis and limited to four tickets per person. Any remaining tickets will be given out at the door on the screening day.


Tracing the story behind this film was not going to be an easy at the onset, but with the help of the founder of SG Film Locations, researcher Toh Hun Ping, I managed to track down one of the co-directors, Chen Ge for a short jog of his memory. This brought me to Xinhua Cultural Enterprises, an old book store where he is part of a weekly gathering with his friends every Saturday. Conversations are held at a make-shift tea-corner at the side of the bookstore, where kids from the enrichment centre next door would sometimes stray to out of curiosity.
My encounter with Chen Ge opened up a new pandora box of knowledge about film development in Singapore. Not keeping strictly to the interview agenda, Chen Ge shared generously about the film industry dynamics in the 70s, offering a useful context to understanding the making of Two Sides.

I understand you were a journalist. What inspired you to make this movie?

Outside my work as a journalist, I also wrote many scripts in hope that they could be made into movies one day, even though I did not have the money.

我以前是记者和电影影评,写了几个剧本, 想拍戏, 但需要找几十万才可以拍。

At that time, Malay film productions dominated the industry, mostly produced under Shaw or Cathay-Keris. I have seen some of these productions in action. Most of the time, Indians took the director’s seat, Malays dominated the cast and the Chinese made the props and sets.

当时马来片的制作比较多, 大多数是邵氏和国泰的片。我有去看过片场,在Balestier. 导演都是印度人,演员都是马来人,道具木工都是华人。

There was a company called Chong Gay Theatres Ltd. It was the only local company that was able to muster significant resources for the making of films. Before Chong Gay, only Shaw and Cathay-Keris were able to produce films at a substantial scale.

综艺机构是第一家能够聚集浩大资源来制作本地片的公司. 之前只有邵氏和国泰Keris制片场也有资源制片.

Chong Gay was considered a left-leaning film production company. It establishment and growth happened very suddenly.

综艺算是左派的制片商. 它的成立是很突然的.

What is left-leaning?

什么是左派?

Left-leaning means it is more pro-China and pro-Communist party in its affiliations and beliefs. Left-wing films tended to be more wholesome and always had a positive moral message in the films. Right-wing films were more complicated and often involved killing and other dark elements.

左派就是思想上比较倾向中国的,倾共产党. 左派片内容比较健康, 就是叫人做好事的, 没有打打杀杀, 或比较不健康的东西.

The three big left-wing film production companies in the Chinese cinema industry were Great Wall Movie Enterprises Ltd, Feng Huang (Phoenix) Motion Picture Co and Sun Luen Film Company.

之前香港有三家算左派的电影公司-长城电影制片有限公司、凤凰影业公司和新联影业公司.

Shaw and Cathay, the two biggest film distribution and production companies in Singapore, imported many of their Chinese films from Taiwan. Taiwan’s ruling political party Kuomingtang was at odds with the Chinese Communist Party, so the Chinese films distributed by Shaw and Cathay were more right-leaning.

那邵氏和国泰, 大部分片的来源是台湾. 台湾的政府是国名党跟中国的政府是对抗的, 所以台湾片算是右派的.

Chong Gay started as a very small company without a small stable of films. I still remember they distributed a film about a dog that was extremely well-received.

以前综艺很小,没有太多戏放映. 我记得他曾经发行的一部有关一只狗的片,票房非常好.

Then one day, the Taiwanese film producers imposed a condition on Shaw and Cathay, forcing them to stop distributing the left-wing films from Hong Kong. If this condition was not followed, their rights to distribute Taiwanese films would be forfeited.

那个时候台湾对邵氏和国泰公司下命令, 不能代理这些香港左派电影. 假如代理就不给他们放台湾片.

Due to the large number of films produced in Hong Kong, being unable to distribute these films in Singapore led to a sudden gap in the supply of films. And the three left-wing film companies were left with no distributors in Singapore.

因为中国香港片数量很大, 突然间断掉, 片变成很少.

This was an opportunity for Chong Gay, which very soon, signed an agreement with these companies to be their distributor in Singapore.

所以变成三家左派公司的片没有商家代理, 让综艺这家小公司得到一个机会, 就签合同代理这些片.

After signing the distribution agreement, Chong Gay realised there was a shortage of cinemas in Singapore. So, they started engaging in the building of several new cinemas in Singapore. Some of the prominent cinemas built by Chong Gay, include Kallang Theatre (which used to screen movies), Golden Theatre and Diamond Theatre. In fact, Kallang Theatre and Golden Theatre surpassed the Shaw and Cathay cinemas to become the largest cinemas in Singapore in the 70s.

综艺本来是一家小小的公司后来因为有机会代理这些片, 为了放映, 一定要有戏院, 就开始扩大建了许多间戏院, 包括了Kallang 黄金和砖石戏院. 本来是邵氏和国泰的戏院比较大, 后来Kallang戏院和黄金戏院变最大.

In terms of local Chinese film productions, they were few and sparse. The more prominent ones were Lion City and Black Gold, both of which had strong financial backing.

本地制作的中文片比较少而且很散, 比较出名的是易水拍狮子城和黑金. 这两部片比较有资本.

The proliferation of cinemas reached a point where there were too many cinemas. Leaving them idle would erode the company’s profitability. Shaw and Cathay seldom had this challenge because they had access to many overseas films and they were already engaged in producing original film content within their own studios. Chong Gay decided to explore original local film productions to increase its collection of films.

建了戏院之后,综艺突然有很多规模大也很新的戏院都绝对不输给邵氏或国泰.  但设施那么多, 变成片不够了. 邵氏和国泰都有海外片可以发行. 在本地,制作马来片有钱赚, 所以有制作马来片的部门Keris. 邵氏也有. 综艺就没办法,开始拍一些本地片扩展他的片源. 没片戏院就会亏本.
I had already built a name for myself as a film reviewer and my other co-director, Lim An, was an established theatre director. We were both approached by Chong Gay to make this film. Together with two other Hong Kong directors, we were the initial group of directors who directed films under Chong Gay. The first two films made under Chong Gay belonged to the Hong Kong directors, while we made Chong Gay’s third film.

是综艺来找我们拍片的。 我当时是在报官当记者, 而外也有写影评. 林岸是导演, 导过许多话剧,名气比较大,那么加上我们在圈内都认识很多演员,要找人拍戏不难. 所以综艺就找到我们成立了制片部门. 在找我们之前,已经请了两位香港导演. 前两部戏先请他们拍. 第三部就是我们的戏.

Two Sides featured an all-local cast and crew except for the gaffers and make-up artists.

两岸用的都是本地人材. 导演, 作曲, 演员,都是纯本的. 唯一不是本地的是灯光和化妆.

How was the storyline created?

那故事是怎么想出来的?

Lim An himself moved from Kelantan to Singapore. So parts of the fílm’s story were inspired by his own experiences. Kelantan, being near the Thai border, was a hotbed of drug smuggling activities, and this is reflected in the story as the lead character succumbs to the lure of gambling and drugs.

林岸本身是从基兰丹过来新加坡的,所以故事的灵感就从这里来, 了解基兰丹贩毒的情况
加上新加坡年轻人开始受物质的引诱. 故事就这样来的.

What were the audience’s reaction when they first watched Two Sides?

当时观众对戏的反应如何?

Let’s not discuss whether the film was good or bad but look at the process and examine the merits of the film from a production point of view as well. The all-local effort case and crew, helped it sell the film very quickly and the fact that we were working in print media helped as well.

我们不谈片好不好, 但从制作方面它是一部完全利用本地人才, 演员, 故事拍的片. 以这样的条件, 宣传方面有优势, 而且我当报界的人也有帮助. 再加上大家也希望能够有本地电影, 所以两岸得到不少人的支持.

Were there plans to make other films after Two Sides?

桥的两岸过后有想要拍其他片吗?

Yes there were. In fact, the opening up of China after the death of Mao Tse Tung, brought more opportunities, and China herself was making more films. However, the managing director of Chong Gay, Lim Djit Sun, passed away shortly, and this affected many of the plans.

有,毛泽东去世之后中国比较开放,综艺就开始发行更多中国片. 我们也有筹备拍更多片, 但综艺机构董事长林日顺却突然去世了, 所以计划就毁了.

Was there someone to take over the business?

综艺没有接班人吗?

Yes, there was, it was Djit Sun's son. As the son was mostly not around in Hong Kong, and there were too many issues and businesses to deal with, he was very conservative in his expenditure. This stood in contrast with his father, who was willing to make investments , such buying the best lighting and cameras.

有,但林日顺的儿子大多数不在香港, 儿子接手后太多业务, 不太敢花太多钱. 老板跟他比起来反而比较敢花, 买了最好的相机和灯光.

How long did you take to complete the film?

你花了多少时间完成拍摄?

We were very efficient in our work. The process was very swift, just 26 days. In fact, we all helped to carry things like the props and lighting and everyone got on very well.

我们拍摄过程很快,效率很好, 总共只拍了26 天, 我们每个人都帮忙扛道具, 灯光, 大家一起来, 很融洽.

After Two Sides, there were three other films in the pipeline, which never achieved fruition. They were Ghost Worshipper, about a Taxi driver who tried sleeping at the cemetery in hope of dreaming up lucky lottery numbers; Upstairs, Downstairs, about life in a HDB flat; Three Female Students, about their life in a HDB block and their individual love stories.

In fact, Lim Ann wrote a story that takes place in two places, Singapore and Shanghai. In the 70s, many mainland Chinese were envious of our lives in Singapore and yearned to be here. Hence, the market potential of this film was significantly huge. I even wanted to cast TV actress Zeng Huifen, who played the lead in SBC drama serial Samsui Woman, in the film.

拍完了以后,我们有三部戏在等, 一部是求鬼的人, 关于一位taxi司机为了要梦到万字票号码, 就去睡坟墓, 希望做梦能梦到四个字. 第二部是楼上楼下 - 是说明组屋生活的故事. 第三部是三个女学生 - 也是组屋生活和她们的恋爱故事.

很可惜的是林岸也写了一部剧本, 是个跨中国和新加坡的故事, 两地之间的感情, 市场和观众范围很大, 而且当时很多上海人希望能搬过来新加坡住, 而且当时想找曽惠芬来演这部戏

Have you watched the recent Singapore films?

你有没有看比较近代的本地片?

I have watched Mee Pok Man and Ilo Ilo. I think Ilo Ilo was a good film as it was able to tell a complete story. I have also watched Jack Neo’s films and I must say Jack Neo has good ideas.

Mee Pok Man 我有看过.  爸妈不在家我也有看. 都不错, 能顺利的讲一个完整的故事. 梁智强呢就很有idea.

Do you know Jack Neo personally?

你认识梁导吗?

No, but we have brushed shoulders at an event before.

不认识, 插肩而过

I hear your whole cast will be coming down on 8 April. Is that true?

听说四月八号两岸的全班人马都会来.

Yes, that right. In fact, there is one cast member who used to bring her one-year old baby to the filming set. She will be coming and I am very curious to see how she is doing now.

有一位很好笑, 当时拍片的时候手里会抱着 baby, 现在已经四十多岁了,很想看她现在怎么样了.

Do drop by the National Museum on 8 April, Saturday, 2 pm to meet Chen Ge and his cast and crew.

Interview by Jeremy Sing

For the full list of April 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.

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