Location Scouting in “Aloha” (1950)

Film Title: Aloha
Year: 1950
Directed by B. S. Rajhans
Produced by Malay Film Productions
Country of Production: Singapore

Synopsis:
On the island of Hawaii, a huge festival with dance, song and boat-racing is taking place. A merchant, Magoya and his assistant, Moku, are among the tourists. They meet a local man, Makali, who has a beautiful daughter, Aloha.

The Film Locations:
Though the story is set in Hawaii, the film is unmistakably shot in Singapore or parts of then-Malaya.

1. Coastline of Singapore (or Malaya)

  
  

One wonders if these were shot in mid-20th century Singapore. I guess natural coastline habitats like the one depicted in the lower right film-still probably exist in Singapore during the 1940-50s. Nowadays, the coastline of island Singapore is predominantly man-made, through land reclamation or harbour activities. The remaining natural ones in the northwestern part of Singapore and several offshore Southern islands are usually out-0f-bounds and are either restricted to military access, or used for heavy industrial purposes.

On the other hand, the filming crew might have travelled up to the north and use coastal locations in the Malayan Peninsula.

2. Pier

 
 

This series of film-stills depict a scene where a couple departs on a bumboat from a pier as a group of friends and admirers bid farewell – one of them by kissing a lamppost.

I cannot identify the exact location of the pier as it seemed to be a rather generic one and did not feature distinctive man-made structures.  The pier or jetty was sited opposite what looked like a mangrove forest. It should have been a well-utilised pier – there were proper fencing and simple barricades, as depicted in the lower right film still.

There is a chinese word “顺” painted on some containers parked by the side of the pier. “顺” translates into “smooth and easy passage” or “to go along with”. The containers could have belonged to a Chinese boat company with “顺” in the company name.

Such a pier would be pretty unimaginable in Singapore these days. For safety’s sake, some form of barricading would have been put up.

As we are on the subject of coastlines and mangrove forests, I present two maps extracted from a book “Singapore Waters – Unveiling Our Seas”, published by Nature Society Singapore in 2003. One is of the Singapore coastline in 1950, the other depicting the (un)natural state of our land borders in 2002.


Look at the amount of greens and yellows (ie. Mangroves and Sand) in the 1950 map. The filmmakers of “Aloha” do have an abundance of natural mangrove forests, rivers and streams, sandy beach vegetation and cliff vegetation sites to select for locations that can be pulled off as tropical Hawaii!

In contrast, the 2002 map shows that the current coastline of Singapore is overwhelmingly reclaimed and contrived – all the reds represent “Reclaimed Land”. If one of us filmmakers intends to shoot a remake of “Aloha” in Singapore, he or she will have only a handful of natural sites to choose from – Sungei Buloh, Pulau Ubin and Sungei Simpang for the mangroves, Labrador Park for the cliffs, and (reclaimed) East Coast Park for the sandy beaches. And, he or she will have to make do with the numerous oil tankers dotting the sea horizon whenever there is a shot pointing away from the coast. We can imagine a possible scene in this “Aloha” remake: a surreal juxtaposition – a group of pretty boys and girls clad in Hawaiian beachwear singing “Dayung Sampan” on tiny boats as they row past huge oil tankers and massive oil refineries. [“Dayung Sampan” roughly translates into “paddling the boat”.]

Singaporean readers will be thinking, “Oh, I know ‘Dayung Sampan’. It’s the song we used to sing in music classes when we were young.”, or “The song that sounds like Teresa Teng’s “甜蜜蜜”.” Nope, it’s a different “Dayung Sampan”. Watch this.

[Note: I have not watched this film in full yet, but merely watched the musical numbers posted on Youtube by friendly netizens. There is a VCD of this film out there. Got to get my hands on that…]

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