Dated: 13 February 2003

Two television documentaries, the first to be co-produced by Crest Communication Singapore, an independent Singapore production house, and Four Square Productions Canada, a Canadian documentary producer, will be broadcast from Tuesday, 18 February 2003 over Channel NewsAsia (CNA). Both are produced under the Canada-Singapore Audio-Visual Co–production Agreement.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) and Telefilm Canada are supporting the co-production of the two one-hour documentaries, which demonstrate the spirit of co-operation between the Singapore and Canadian production companies. Both productions will be part of a historical documentary series entitled Scarred by History.

Mr Lim Hock Chuan, Chief Executive Officer of MDA, said, "The production of the two documentaries fits well with MDA's vision of positioning Singapore as a global media city. They represent an important first step in co-production between Singapore and Canada. The Singapore production industry looks forward to more international co-production with its Canadian counterpart as an important way to broaden its exposure, upgrade the industry and create quality programmes that can travel globally."

Mr François Macerola, Executive Director, Telefilm Canada, was also pleased to add, "The number of co-productions with Asia has increased significantly in the last few years, especially in the areas of documentary and animation, where Canada has a unique tradition of excellence. I am particularly glad to see that Canada's first two documentary co-productions with Singapore were undertaken with the participation of an outstanding Canadian documentary producer. I wish all the best to our future partnerships with Singapore.''

Her Excellency Doreen Steidle, Canadian High Commissioner to Singapore said, " We are very pleased to witness the first fruits of the Audio-Visual Agreement between Canada and Singapore. Co-production provides an invaluable opportunity for companies to pool their creative, artistic, technical and financial resources, bringing to the joint venture their unique strengths and expertise. In this instance, Canada's tradition of excellence in the area of documentary production. Such collaborations are mutually beneficial to the industries of both countries, with the added stimulus and broader perspective resulting in outstanding work that resonates with both a national as well as an international audience. Canada is privileged to contribute to the content development of the local industry, as Singapore continues its strive to be a premier media hub. We are committed to fostering a strong partnership between Canadian and Singapore production companies over the long term, and look forward with great anticipation to more bountiful harvests on the co-production front."

The first documentary entitled End of Empire, featuring Alexander Cockburn, a medical volunteer from Canada who worked in Singapore during the Japanese invasion in World War II.

The second documentary entitled Among the Disappeared: A Cambodian Odyssey, features the story of a Cambodian-born but now Canadian resident Kodain Ear. It recounts his childhood experience in witnessing the Khmer Rouge atrocities in 1975. (See Annexes A &B for synopses of the two documentaries.)

The broadcast schedule for the two documentaries is as follows:

  Programme Date Time
  Among the Disappeared Tues, 18 Feb 2003 7.30 pm
    Wed, 19 Feb 2003 1.00 pm
    Sat, 22 Feb 2003 12.00 am
  End of Empire Tues, 25 Feb 2003 7.30 pm
    Wed, 26 Feb 2003 1.00 pm
    Sat, 1 Mar 2003 12.00 am

The Audio-Visual Co-Production Agreement between Canada and Singapore, signed in Singapore in 1998, establishes a framework for co-operation between audio-visual production companies in Singapore and Canada. MDA has been working closely with Telefilm Canada to administer the Agreement and facilitate co-productions between Canada and Singapore.

Ms Ong Hee Yah, Vice President, Network Programming &Promotions of CNA, said, "These documentaries are significant visual documentation of our recent history. It can never be left unsaid and should not be forgotten. Channel NewsAsia is honoured to be able to showcase this historical series to Singaporeans. We are in total support of the development of the production houses, and we see this international co-production with Canada as a positive and encouraging spring-board to future co productions with many more countries."

Ms Reena Ashok, CEO of Crest Communications, added, "Co-productions not only provide opportunities to exchange technology, skill-sets, talent but the synergies widen the gamut of programming, as it also helps in a better understanding of different cultures. Co-productions extend the potential-use of end-product into a bigger market as it fulfills the viewing needs of the target audience, keeping in mind their varied socio-cultural backgrounds."

Editor's Note:

Media Development Authority (MDA) was formed on 1 January 2003 from the merger of Singapore Broadcasting Authority, Films and Publications Department and Singapore Film Commission. As the promoter and regulator of the media industry, MDA will work towards developing a vibrant media industry in Singapore and nurturing a Creative Media and Connected Society.

Telefilm Canada is a federal cultural agency dedicated primarily to the development and promotion of the Canadian film, television and new media industry. The Corporation acts as one of the government's principal instruments for providing strategic leverage to the Canadian private sector.

Crest Communication Singapore Pte. Ltd. (Crest Singapore) is a part of the Crest Communication Ltd, a media and entertainment content provider targeting the international markets. The company will also soon be providing multimedia content for broadband in the Singapore market.




As news of Japan's imminent surrender spread, the inmates of Changi Prisoner of War camp rushed through the now unguarded gates headed for Singapore. Left behind were the sick, the dying, and camp medical officer Alexander Cockburn.

Eight years before, Mr Cockburn left his fiance in Britain for a four-year contract as a colony pharmacist. For the last four years she had not known if he was alive of dead. He too hoped to reach Singapore and contact home, but nearly four years of brutal occupation had taken their toll. Tending to the sick he collapsed from exhaustion and was sent back to Britain. He would never see Singapore again.

Smack between India and China, colonial Singapore was a beautiful, bustling city of business - Britain's far eastern pearl. It's surrender to Japanese forces in the Second World War has been called Britain's greatest military disaster;a stunning, humiliating defeat that shattered the myth of white superiority and effectively sabotaged Britain's colonial hold over the South Pacific.

The young pharmacist Mr Cockburn arrived at Singapore in time for a few twilight years of cultural splendour, only to be caught up in their swift, violent end. As a medical volunteer, Mr Cockburn worked against the death and destruction caused by incessant Japanese bombing in Singapore as well as caring for those hurt in the jungle warfare on the Malay Peninsula. At the city's surrender, he witnessed brutal atrocities committed against the ethnic civilian communities, and then continued for three and a half years to live through horrific conditions in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

This one-hour documentary will tell his story and, through it, that of Singapore itself throughout the Second World War. Mr Cockburn, now living in Canada, will return to Singapore for the first time since being shipped out of Changi at the war's end. Enhancing his story will be those of native Singaporeans who were also participants in the war. One of these, Mr "Chip" Ghee Tan, now lives in Toronto. He and his family bore first-hand witness to conditions in civilian Singapore throughout the war, as well as knowing intimately the atrocities suffered by the city's Chinese population. We will also speak with witnesses in Singapore itself, Chinese, Indian, and Malay alike.




When Kodaim Ear smiles for the camera at his wedding in Regina this summer, he will be told yet again how much he resembles his father. But he can't be certain. He can't recall his parents' faces. His father, mother, and four siblings have long since disappeared - murdered in the terror that the Khmer Rouge revolution brought to his native Cambodia in 1975.

In the five years that followed, his childhood also disappeared - lost in fear and hard labour, until a dangerous path of escape would lead him finally to Canada.

Today, he is set to marry, to establish a foundation over the loss within his past. Yet even in this secure new beginning there is a gap he cannot fill. The images of terror won't leave his head;the faces of his parents won't come back. Kodaim Ear is returning to Cambodia to remember and tell his story, a story he has always wanted his Canadian friends to understand, but that he was never certain how to tell. By accompanying him back, we'll help him to share with his new country the story of his old one.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023