Xin Ke [新客, commonly known as The New Immigrant], produced by Nanyang Low Poey Kim Motion Picture Co. in 1926 and 1927, is believed to be Singapore’s first feature fiction film. Liu Beijin (b. 1902–d. 1959; also known as Liu Peh Jing and Low Poey Kim) was the producer, with Guo Chaowen as the director and cinematographer.
Of Fujian origins, Liu Beijin spent his formative years in China before returning to Muar. While on a visit to China sometime between December 1925 and February 1926, he witnessed the booming Shanghainese film industry, and experienced the negative misjudgements of being an overseas Chinese. These factors motivated him to produce Xin Ke, a melodrama about a newly arrived Chinese to Singapore, through which Liu conveyed much of the social struggles and issues facing the immigrant Chinese at the time. Liu had made the film for the Chinese living in Singapore as well as for those in China, but with two different objectives. For the Chinese in Singapore, he wanted to revive in them an interest in Chinese culture; for the latter, he intended to portray the lifestyle of the overseas immigrant Chinese.
When Liu arrived in Singapore in 1926, he set up an office at 12 Pekin Street before renting a house at 58 Meyer Road in Katong to serve as a studio, staff dormitory, film processing room and actors’ changing rooms. He bought French cinematographic equipment and, on 12 September 1926, began auditioning more than 100 prospective actors for his film. The 15 shortlisted candidates were each made to pay $20 to attend an actor’s training course held on 22 September.
Xin Ke was shot at the Botanic Gardens in Singapore, Liu’s studio in Katong as well as the Johor Sultan’s palace and rubber plantations in Malaya. Production ended in February 1927, and invitations to view the show were issued to journalists and celebrities on 1 March. Chinese newspaper Xin Guo Min Re Bao [New Republic Daily/New Citizen Daily] announced on the same day that the film would have a public test screening at Victoria Theatre on 4 March.
Members of the public could obtain complimentary tickets at the door before the test screening. By 7 pm, more than 100 people were waiting at the theatre. Special magazines with details of the plot, cast and crew were also sold by actresses for 20 cents each before the show, which played to a full-capacity crowd that night. In addition to journalists and celebrities, dignitaries like Chinese Consul Chen Chang-le also attended the event. The black-and-white silent film had both Chinese and English subtitles, and totalled nine reels. However, the public screening stopped at the sixth reel because the last three were being reviewed by the British government censorship authorities. Jan Uhde and Yvonne Ng Uhde suggest that director Guo’s filming of the aftermath of the 30 May massacre in Shanghai in 1925, during which British police fired on student demonstrators, could be a reason why the British authorities were concerned about this production.
Xin Ke remains unique because many local films that were subsequently produced were in Malay. It would be almost two decades later before a major production in Chinese was produced in Singapore. Soon after its Singapore premiere, Xin Ke was shown in Hong Kong under a different Chinese title, Tang Shan Lai Ke (唐山來客), from 29 April to 2 May 1927.
Xin Ke remains Liu’s first and only film production. The original reels are no longer extant.
1. Uhde, J., & Uhde, Y. N. (2013, Apr–Jun). The Immigrant: Singapore’s first feature (p. 37). Cinémathèque Quarterly. Singapore: National Museum of Singapore. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Usmar Ismail Academia website: https://www.academia.edu/3273015/Two_Orphan_Films_by_Usmar_Ismail
2. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 37.
3. Millet, R. (2006). Singapore cinema (p. 19). Singapore: Editions Didier Millet. Call no.: RSING q791.43095957 MIL.
4. Nangaen, C., Ho, A. & Ou, C. S. (2013). Film stories: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canton, San Francisco (p. 29). Thailand: H. M. Ou. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Google Books: http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=hfiPLNqjQssC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; Domestic Occurrence Marriage. (1937, March 8). Malaya Tribune, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 37.
6. Nangaen C., Ho, A. & Ou, C. S. (2014). Movie stories (pp. 7–9). Thailand: H. M. Ou. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Googlebooks: http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=kE_eAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=movie+stories&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MdYDVPzXMMaKuAT32oGoBQ&ved=0CFsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=movie%20stories&f=false; Liu, B. (1926). 刘贝锦归国纪 [A Travelogue of Liu Beijing's Return to his Ancestral Homeland]. 上海三民公司. (Not available in NLB holdings)
7. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2014, p. 7; Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 29.
8. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 38.
9. 新客 Xin Ke (The Immigrant). Singapore Lost Film Wiki. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Wikia website: http://saveourfilm.wikia.com/wiki/%E6%96%B0%E5%AE%A2_Xin_Ke_(The_Immigrant)
10. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 38.
11. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 42.
12. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 29. [Nangaen indicates the year as 1927, but this would be after the film premiered. Therefore, the likely year is 1926.]; 第4页 广告 专栏 1. (1926, September 17). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 31.
14. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 38.
15. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 31.
16. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 34.; 南洋刘贝锦自制影片公司启事. (1927, March 2). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 21.; 观「新客」试映记. (1927, March 7). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2014, p. 39; Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 34; Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 39.
18. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 34.
19. 新客 Xin Ke (The Immigrant). Singapore Lost Film Wiki.
20. Nangaen, Ho & Ou, 2013, p. 35.
21. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 43.
22. Millet, 2006, p. 19.
23. 新客 Xin Ke (The Immigrant). Singapore Lost Film Wiki.
24. Uhde & Uhde, 2013, p. 42.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.