LOCATION SCOUTING IN “KORBAN FITNAH” (PART 4)
This last part of the “Korban Fitnah” series will present the film locations featured in the final third of the film — a Malay fishing village, old hotels in Singapore, a private housing estate, a beach on the east coast of Singapore, Joo Chiat Police Station and Singapore General Hospital.
The Film Locations (continued):
11. A Malay fishing village, probably Kampung Loyang.
In the film narrative, Hussein and Rahimah were banished from the house following Hassan’s wrongful accusations. Hassan had believed Wahab’s lies that his brother and his pregnant wife were having an affair behind his back and that they even planned to elope. Eventually, Hussein and Rahimah found shelter in a Malay fishing village, where a kind elderly couple took them in.
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”. Hussein and Rahimah found temporary shelter in a Malay fishing village.
1st row & 2nd row left: The houses in this village are seemingly not elevated on stilts.
2nd row right & 3rd row: Hussein is delighted that Rahimah has given birth to a son and rushes to the seaside to relay the news to the elderly man who gave them shelter.
A map of most of the old kampungs in Singapore.
I am guessing that the Malay fishing village featured in “Korban Fitnah” is Kampong Loyang which is situated just opposite Pulau Ubin (look for “Kg Loyang” on the eastern end of the Singapore island in the map).
And my speculation is based on the observation, in the film-stills, that there is an island in close proximity to the beach where Hussein meets the elderly man who arrives on a fishing boat. That island should be Pulau Ubin.
A collage of film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”. Probably shot at the beachfront of Kampung Loyang. The island in the background is probably Pulau Ubin. I have compared the contours of the hills on the islands in this collage against photographs of Pulau Ubin and they do match.
Kampung Loyang, by the way, is no more. The residents of Kampung Loyang were made to resettle to HDB flats in Tampines in the early 1980s as the fishing village went under the bulldozers. In its place today are the holiday chalets and resorts lining the Pasir Ris Beach — eg. Costa Sand Resort and Aloha Resort — and parts of Pasir Ris New Town.
Another kampung lost to redevelopment… It is indeed a pity that what we now have is only a general knowledge of Singapore’s kampungs of the past, and there is a lack of documentation regarding the specific and individual kampungs that once mushroomed all over the island.
12. Potential Destinations for the Banished in “Korban Fitnah” — Private Houses, Hotels, Motels and Police Stations.
As it turns out, Hassan realises that he has been wrong to accuse Rahimah of adultery. Rahimah’s uncle, Pak Cik, had pointed out to Hassan that Wahab was the vicious one who fabricated all the wild accusations and slander so as to exact revenge on Hussein and Rahimah. Together with Pak Cik, Hassan then sets out to look for Hussein and Rahimah, whom he had banished from the house earlier.
A. They try asking around the neighbourhood in a private housing estate:
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”.
Hassan and Pak Cik are seen enquiring at a selection of homes in a private housing estate.
This long sequence in the film was probably shot in Opera Estate, then a relatively new private housing estate in Siglap, in year 1959.
Opera Estate was a private housing estate in Siglap that was developed in the 1950s by Credit Foncier de L’Extreme Orient (a Belgian financial firm/bank-cum-estate developer?). Prior to that, the land was occupied by coconut plantations and cattle grounds owned by the Frankel Brothers. The estate is renowned for having street names that follow an operatic or bangsawan theme, eg. Swan Lake Avenue, Fidelio Street, Tosca Street, Ernani Street, Jalan Bangsawan and Jalan Terang Bulan.
Most of the houses in the estate were low-rise and built in a utilitarian and modern style with largely un-ornamented facades. They also came with features to cater to the tropical climate, such as ventilation holes and windows with a deep, over-size projecting frame (for sunshading purposes). The two-storey houses usually incorporated an open-air balcony on the second floor. A substantial proportion of those houses from the days when “Korban Fitnah” was made still exist to this day.
Collage (A) of film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”. (Click on image for a larger view.)
I am guessing that this panning shot was filmed around the entrance to Opera Estate in Siglap. The road that Hassan and Pak Cik are walking down is a road named “Fidelio Street”. The blue arrow is where the junction of Siglap Road and Fidelio Street is. The red arrow points out the former CHIJ Opera Estate school, a four-storey block off Jalan Khairuddin. Many former residents have recounted how they would cycle down this slope at high speeds for thrills when they were young.
The house under construction on the left in the collage is probably House No.574, Siglap Road, which is still around today. (I have a more recent photograph of the house, which you can view in my photo gallery of Opera and Frankel Estate a few scrolls down.)
Here is an embedded “Google Map and Street View” that shows a similar view of the Siglap Road/Fidelio Street junction as Collage (A) above. This is photographed in 2008:
Collage (B) of film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”. (Click on image for a larger view.)
This was probably shot at the junction of Siglap Road and Fidelio Street too, but this is facing southwest towards East Coast Road. Siglap Road extends to the left of the image, towards Kubur Kassim cemetery and right, towards Changi Road. I believe the houses here in the collage don’t exist anymore, and they have been replaced by newer bungalows or semi-detached houses.
An embedded “Google Map and Street View” that matches Collage (B), photographed in 2008:
To the west of Opera Estate across Siglap Road is another private housing estate of a similar kind — the Frankel Estate. It was developed in the early 1950s by Credit Foncier de L’Extreme Orient (the same developers for Opera Estate), which had bought over the land previously owned by Mr. Julian Frankel in 1946. A building contractor firm “Seacon Ltd” was involved in the sales of brand new “Seaconomic Houses” in Frankel Estate – those were “compound houses, including plumbing, wiring, and all first quality materials, solid teak windows, tiled bathrooms, etc., built on your own or Seacon land” (The Straits Times, 5 May 1951, Page 1.) The development of the new housing estate had also forced the original residents to relocate — the “attap-hut dwellers”, “squatters”, fishermen and pig-rearers. Some of the evictions even involved the police accompanied by gangs of labourers with axes employed to demolish the original dwellings by force (The Straits Times, 2 June 1952, Page 7).
I was never a resident of either Opera or Frankel Estate, and I have never really set foot in them. For curiosity’s sake, I took a brief walk around both Frankel and Opera estates a few days ago to get a sense of the place that has been much reminiscenced about in the blogosphere.
A 1960s map of the Frankel Estate and Opera Estate.
The blue line traces the path that I took during the brief walk. The red circle marks my start point (along La Salle Street), and the green my end point (at Jalan Tua Kong). The black circle & arrow with an “A” points to the probable position and direction of the film shot (from “Korban Fitnah”) in the Collage (A) presented above. The “B” circle & arrow points to the probable position and direction of the film shot in Collage (B).
During the walk, I was also intent on seeking out the houses that were captured on film in “Korban Fitnah”, but I guessed I was bound to fail in that respect as those old houses might have already been torn down. Instead, I turned to capturing houses and buildings in the estates that seem to be built in a different era from ours; those that stood out from the more recent run-of-the-mill condominiums and detached houses that are courted more for monetary value than aesthetic values:
B. Hassan and Pak Cik also suspect that Hussein and Rahimah are holed up in one of the small-scale hotels in the vicinity:
Well, the “Singapore Hotel 新加坡大酒店” (Geylang Road) was not exactly small-scale in its heyday, but by the early 1960s, the 26-room hotel was already in decline due to the emergence of newer upmarket high-rise hotels (eg. Lion City Hotel just right across the street). It was later burned down in a massive fire in 1971, together with the neighbouring Singapore Theatre Restaurant (which also appeared in another film that I have introduced in this blog).
From the National Archives’ PICAS website. A bird’s eye view of the fire that burned down Singapore Hotel and Singapore Theatre Restaurant. Probably photographed from the top floors of Lion City Hotel.
The “Hong Chew Hotel 杭州旅社” was a motel in a two-storey bungalow located along Telok Kurau Road. It was probably another non-descript motel for cheap stays and quick stay-overs. The hotel administration got into trouble with the authorities when it was severely cautioned for allowing vice activities (probably prostitution) in its premises (Straits Times 28 Apr 1959). Apparently, the administration did not take the warning seriously as the hotel’s license was cancelled a year later “on the grounds that (the hotel) was being used for immoral purposes” (Straits Times 13 Apr 1960).
C. Hassan and Pak Cik are desperate and even make inquiries at the local police station — Joo Chiat Police Station:
Built in 1928, the Joo Chiat Police Station was previously the headquarters of the eastern division of the Singapore police force. With the expansion of the urban areas into the outlying regions and the establishment of new towns such as Bedok and Tampines, the headquarters moved out of Joo Chiat in 1987. The building was later used for recreational purposes and together with other peripheral buildings, formed the “Katong Village”, an enclave of retail shops, bars and restaurants. Today it houses the “Old Hong Kong Tea House” restaurant. This colonial-era building is earmarked to be conserved even as a new hotel development is being planned for the site.
13. Nicoll Drive Beach.
Hassan and Pak Cik fail to locate the whereabouts of Hussein and Rahimah. They need some form of respite from the arduous task of locating someone without any leads, and head to the beach. There, they are in the company of other beach revelers and Wahab is among them, teasing and flirting with the ladies. Pak Cik and Hassan spot Wahab and a confrontation and fight ensues.
This scene from “Korban Fitnah” is probably shot at the beach along Nicoll Drive, somewhere between the mouth of Changi Creek and the SAF Ferry Terminal today. I thought it was a very well-thought-out sequence — a panning shot that begins with Hassan and Pak Cik walking from Nicoll Drive towards the beach, followed by them turning to watch a group of beach revelers in the distance. The contrast in moods between the dejected pair and the happy beach revelers is immediately emphasized. Pak Cik urges Hassan to move on and take a much-needed break on a bench by the beach. The scene cuts to Wahab and a group of girls in swimsuits enjoying themselves during a picnic. Then, a mid-shot of Pak Cik trying to console a disheartened Hassan. A striking contrast again. After some photo-taking with a medium format camera, the sleazy Wahab teases one of the swimsuit girls and goes chasing her along the beach — the camera pans again — until Pak Cik and Hassan spots him. All the while, the sequence is accompanied by a jazzy, laid back version of “Bengawan Solo”, until the point when Hassan confronts Wahab, and the sounds of low-bass drum beats enter to imply an ensuing fight.
A collage created with film-stills from “Korban Fitah”. (Click on image for a larger and “animated” view.)
This scene features the beach park along Nicoll Drive, year 1959. (Credits to Mr. Peter Chan who pointed out the location of this scene to me.)
More film-stills from the scene in “Korban Fitnah”, shot at the beach along Nicoll Drive.
The elder observes, the babe screams, and Hassan subdues Wahab.
The islands in the backgrounds of the first row of film-stills are either Pulau Ubin or Pulau Tekong.
A 1960s topographic map of the Changi Point, Loyang and Telok Paku vicinity.
The stretch of Changi Beach along Nicoll Drive where the scene from “Korban Fitnah” was probably shot is marked out by the blue circle.
14. A Potential Site for Attempting Suicide — Singapore General Hospital.
Hassan is knocked down by a car while pursuing a lady who resembles Rahimah. He is sent to the Singapore General Hospital where the doctor declares that Hassan has lost his eyesight as a result of the car accident. Rahimah learns of the car accident and Hassan’s plight through a newspaper report and she immediately heads for the hospital with her baby.
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”. A nurse leads Rahimah to the ward where Hassan is admitted, in the Bowyer Block of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
This short scene shows the entrance and the ground floor corridors of the Bowyer Block, one of the earliest multi-storey hospital blocks in the SGH compounds in Outram Sepoy Lines. It was built in 1926. I have briefly talked about it and presented photos of the conserved building in an early post on this blog – Location Scouting in “Racun Dunia”(1950).
Rahimah is informed by the eye specialist that the only way for Hassan to recover his eyesight is a double eye transplant, and the pair of eyes can only be donated by a dead person. Hussein overheard their conversation and decides to sacrifice himself for his brother and attempts suicide. He finds a suitable location for doing so on the top floors of a tall building in the hospital compound.
A collage of film-stills from the “suicide attempt location scouting” scene in “Korban Fitnah”. (Click on image for a larger view.)
Hassan walks along an extension of the Bowyer Block and sees a seven-storey building — a prime spot on the top floor to jump off from.
The tall 7-storey building was the House Officers’ Quarters, built in 1959.
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”.
Left: A collage of film-stills showing the staircase and height of the House Officers’ Quarters building – 7 storeys.
Right: Hassan climbs up to the top floor and peers down. Later on, police officers are alerted to his act and arrest him after a chase.
The former House Officers’ Quarters of Singapore General Hospital in March 2009. The site of Hussein’s attempted suicide in “Korban Fitnah” fifty years ago.
This 7-storey building from the 1950s was demolished in 2010/2011 and a new twin-tower complex housing the SingHealth medical academy (“The Academia”) now sits on the site.
Thus ends Hussein’s long flashback and his recall of the events leading to his suicide attempt. Back in the court room, the judge sympathizes with Hussein and deems what has happened to him and his family as “sad and tragic”. He gives Hussein a partial acquittal, so that Hussein will not be imprisoned, but instead be put under probation for a year. And, he finally sums up the morale of the story in the film:
And thus ends this long and winding 4-part series of location-scouting in “Korban Fitnah”…