Wednesday, May 30, 2007

History revisited

Singapore film company Monsoon Pictures and Dutch filmmakers IdtV Film today inked their partnership to produce a US$ 6.5 million dramatic feature film that chronicles a major and poignant moment in Singapore’s colonial history.

Titled Nadra, it tells the story of 13-year-old Dutch girl Bertha Hertogh (a.k.a. Maria Huberdina Hertogh and Nadra binte Maarof), whose custody battle in 1950 between her birth parents and her Malay adoptive mother erupted into a major struggle between East and West, between Muslims and Christians – a struggle that led to deadly rioting in Singapore and shattered the lives of young Bertha and all those around her.

The emotionally charged story will be told through the eyes of Bertha Hertogh and two other survivors of the riots, Vivian Davies and Anwar Rahayu in the lead-up to that fateful day in 1950. Twenty-five years later, a Dutch TV show would reignite the story again, reopening old wounds and reuniting the three survivors in a struggle to find the truth.

The film, which will be in English, Dutch and Malay, will be helmed by acclaimed Dutch director Ben Sombogaart, whose last collaboration with IdtV Film Twin Sisters was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film in 2004 and was sold to over 40 territories worldwide.

Pre-financing for the film has begun and on-location filming in the Netherlands, Singapore and Malaysia is expected to begin in mid-2008, with Monsoon Pictures and IdtV Film working closely on all aspects of production.

Interest in the film has been strong in both the Netherlands and Singapore. Amsterdam-based A Film Distribution has already snapped up the distribution rights for Benelux, comprising the territories of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg while Golden Village Pictures has come onboard to distribute the film in Singapore.

Producer Christopher Chew, Managing Director of Monsoon Pictures explained why he believes the film’s central themes are especially relevant today and will resonate strongly with audiences everywhere.

Nadra isn’t merely a story about the bitter custody battle between two families, it is a story about a clash of cultures and ideologies and how ordinary people oftentimes become unwitting pawns in events much larger than themselves. This is something that we are seeing a lot of in the world today, which is why Bertha’s story is an important one and needs to be told,” he said.

“Monsoon Pictures is excited to be collaborating with award-winning filmmakers Ben Sombogaart and IdtV Film on such an eventful project,” he added.

Producer Hanneke Niens, Managing Director of IdtV Film, who was drawn to the project for very similar reasons, said: “This true story is not only dramatically strong but gives a very contemporary feel to anyone watching it. The clash between the Islamic culture and the Western culture in the 1950s in Singapore, can still be seen in today’s context, where again there is a split between the two cultures. IdtV Film is proud to be co-producing this very important project with Monsoon Pictures.”

Nadra is supported by the Singapore Film Commission (SFC), which awarded it a development grant in 2006 under its Project Development Scheme.

Mr Man Shu Sum, Director of Broadcast and Film Development, Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and Director, SFC said: “SFC is thrilled to support this mutually beneficial international co-production effort between Monsoon Pictures and IdtV Film. Nadra will be a landmark Made-by-Singapore film set against the backdrop of the Maria Hertogh riots - a significant part of Singapore's history that underscores the importance of racial and religious harmony. With universal themes of love, hope, and despair, I am confident that Nadra will strike a chord with audiences all around the world.”

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