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Malaysian film industry construct malaysian identity cultural studies essay

International Film Development Research Network

Gaik Cheng Khoo encyclopedia article file: Films Made by Women: Malaysia This entry focuses on three contemporary Malay Muslim women filmmakers, Shuhaimi Baba, Erma Fatima, and Yasmin Ahmad, whose films engage with Islam, gender and sexuality, and race relations in multicultural Malaysia.

Southeast Asian film Malaysian women filmmakers Malay cinema Yasmin Ahmad race and religion Sufi Islam Race and religion in Malaysia Malaysia is a multiethnic country consisting of ethnic Malays, Chinese, Indians and others, including indigenous peoples.

One of the malaysian film industry construct malaysian identity cultural studies essay of the British colonial divide and rule policy is the close linkage between ethnicity and religion so that a Malay person is defined as a Muslim in the Malaysian Constitution Article 160. Most Chinese are Taoist-Buddhists and Christians, and the majority of Indians are predominantly Hindu and Christians, although there is a small percentage of Chinese and Indians who are Muslims.

Islam is the official religion but other ethnic groups are free to practise their own religions. Malaysia is governed through parliamentary democracy and secular institutions. This is important to understand as several prime ministers since 2001 have made claims that Malaysia is an Islamic state. This claim may have been made to score a political point over the Islamic party PAS although it antagonized Malaysia's 40 per cent ethnic minority population.

Historically, it was Muslim traders who brought Islam to island Southeast Asia in the fourteenth century. Islam was adapted to fit the animist and Indic customs of the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula then. In the twentieth century, the most noticeable transformation is the resurgence of revivalist Islam in the 1970s and its gradual mainstreaming through the radical student leader of ABIM Islamic Youth MovementAnwar Ibrahim, who was co-opted in 1982 into the United Malays National Organisation UMNOthe party in power since independence.

Neo-resurgent Islam made Malays self-conscious about their piety and when the revivalist movement took shape, its teachings focused on public expressions of piety, including a strong emphasis on the regulation of Muslim women's bodies and fashion today most Malay women wear headscarvescontrolling and subjecting female and other non-heteronormative sexualities to moral policing and surveillance, and discouraging intermixing with non-Muslims.

The effects of Muslim proselytizers or the dakwah movement throughout the 1980s and 1990s led to public discourse about polygyny at the height of the 1990s when the economy was thriving and more wealthy men could afford to support their polygamous lifestyles. In fact, polygyny was featured in the 1992 film Selubung Covering, dir. In the post-11 September 2001 climate and and following the Bali bombings 2002 and 2005the Malaysian government has been keen to demonstrate that Malaysia is a moderate Muslim nation which does not support militant Islamism.

  1. When to quote and when to paraphrase direct quotation however, using direct quotes is not always the best way to use a source how to use writing commons.
  2. Read in the context of racialized 7 of 8 23-11-2009 11. Indeed, the emergence of a new populism in many parts of the world attests to the decline of established media institutions, which are widely seen as having lost touch with the realities of those left behind by globalization.
  3. All this changed with the end of the studio era in the late 1960s continuing into the era of Malay Independent Film in the 1970s concurrent with the National Economic Policy 1971—90.
  4. Her humanism, not to mention her strong story-telling skills and direction, has universal appeal abroad as reflected in the numerous awards garnered at foreign film festivals and two retrospectives of her works held in Tokyo 2006 and Honolulu 2007. When using direct quotes in your writing, you should placequotations marks around the quote punctuation should also beinserted within the quotation marks.

Notably though, the dakwah years and specifically during Abdullah Badawi's 1 of 8 23-11-2009 11: This is reflected in the formation of Pembela Defendera coalition of 50 Muslim non-governmental organizations spearheaded by ABIM in 2006 to protest against apostasy and to defend Malay-Muslim interests which they felt were being challenged by highly-publicized court cases to do with conversion to Islam.

Throughout the 1990s till the time of writing 2009three Malay women filmmakers addressed issues that were socially relevant to their times: Shuhaimi Baba and Erma Fatima in the 1990s and more recently, the late Yasmin Ahmad whose films have received local as well as international attention.

Sadly, she suffered a stroke and passed away two days later at the age of 51 on 25 July 2009. Her demise has left a gaping hole in Malaysian cinema and the advertising world. In fact, the first few film studios were set up in Singapore and run by Chinese owners and producers who made Malay-language films for local audiences.

The studio system is described as a multicultural or pluralist system because it relied on Malay actors, Indian directors and editors, and Hong Kong Chinese crews. All this changed with the end of the studio era in the late 1960s continuing into the era of Malay Independent Film in the 1970s concurrent with the National Economic Policy 1971—90.

The NEP was meant to address socioeconomic inequality through poverty reduction and delinking traditional occupations from race and the sense of Malay disenfranchisement that had supposedly led to the race riots of 13 May 1969. Such cultural politics have influenced film policy: Moreover, ethnonationalist sentiments deem that 80 per cent of the dialogue in a Malaysian film should be in Malay language to qualify for inclusion in the annual Malaysian Film Festival.

Since 90 per cent of the dialogue in Yasmin Ahmad's film Muallaf The Convert, 2008 is in English, technically it does not qualify for the festival and competition.

Moreover, film producers are more interested in profit-making and providing light-hearted romantic comedies than making serious films that do not sell. Popular genres include comedies, romance, action, drama, and now horror, catering mostly to a youth market. The commercial film industry produces between 15 and 30 films a year but this number is negligible if digital independent films made in other Malaysian languages Tamil, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, 2 of 8 23-11-2009 11: Beginning in 2000, a young generation of independent filmmakers born after 1969 began to actively make films, usually on digital cameras.

Working collaboratively and from various ethnic backgrounds, their films push many boundaries: Amir Muhammad, one of the leaders of the independent film movement, graduated from short video essays to documentaries. His video essay Friday one of a collection entitled 6horts examines Malaysians' understanding and practice of Islam in Malaysia by focusing on the Friday noon prayer at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur Khoo 2006a.

The technologically-savvy independent filmmakers are more influenced by global cinema and foreign art films, accessible via cheap pirated DVDs, than by Malaysian mainstream films Khoo 2007. A cosmopolitan attitude imbues their works and their collaborative work ethic: Unlike the majority mainstream Malay films, indie films may be multiethnic and multilingual.

Collectively they represent a more multiethnic face of the nation. Women make up only a handful of directors in the industry, even though they may consist of half the students in film courses at local film schools. Behind the camera, more women end up as producers than as directors, though it is unclear whether this is a matter of choice or whether women are being steered in that direction by their male lecturers. Effects of resurgent Islam in 1990s cinema: Shuhaimi Baba In the 1980s and 1990s, under the authoritarian leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, the NEP succeeded not only in reducing poverty but also in broadening the Malay middle class while concentrating power and wealth malaysian film industry construct malaysian identity cultural studies essay Malay corporate elites.

Middle-class filmmakers with middle-class issues and themes emerged in the 1990s after the cinema slump of the previous two decades. The 1980s actor-turned filmmaker Rahim Razali in Tzu-Feh Sofiah 1986 subtly critiqued Malays for their religious hypocrisy by juxtaposing them with a Chinese woman convert who tries to bring peace among the Malay villagers but at a cost she was kidnapped though released unharmed later.

Another writer reads the film as suggesting that a Chinese woman convert could have better morals than some of the Muslim-born villagers Beh 2006. Hassan notes that the theme of religious deviancy returns in woman filmmaker Shuhaimi Baba's Selubung Covering, 1992. Yasmin Ahmad picks up the thread of critiquing religious hypocrisy twenty years later in her films Gubra Anxiety, 2006Mukhsin Translation?

During the 1990s, these middle-class Muslim Malay filmmakers responded to resurgent Islam, which they equated with Arabicization, by reclaiming adat or Malay custom, which has more in common with liberal modernity and Westernization Khoo 2006.

In the films by male Malay filmmakers like U-Wei Haji Saari, adat took the form of unleashed female sexuality and sensuality 3 of 8 23-11-2009 11: Frequently, these sexualized Malay women characters were portrayed as wearing only a sarung covering their breasts and lower body but leaving their shoulders exposed berkemban.

This was emblematic of the nostalgia associated with rural Malay village life and reminiscent of images from Malay films of an earlier pre-dakwah period. Malay women filmmakers such as Shuhaimi Baba and Erma Fatima on the other hand were more interested in representing modern Malay women who found a balance between their careers and romantic and social relationships and who were comfortable both in the city and in rural villages, seen as the repository of tradition in the 1990s.

This would change with the portrayal of a revisionist female nationalist character Embun in Erma Fatima's historical Second World War epic, Embun 2002. Shuhaimi's Selubung Covering, 1992 focuses on one such female protagonist, Mastura, played by pan-Asian looking actor Deanna Yusoff, whose best friend from university, EJ, drops out of medical school in order to be the second wife of a cult-ish and sexist Islamic leader, Brother Musa.

The film offers a liberal feminist critique of the extreme nature of fundamentalist Islam by showing how marrying Brother Musa has narrowed EJ's life chances to be an emancipated woman. EJ embodies a traditional submissive Muslim woman that counters Mastura's stronger independent character. Mastura chooses a Westernized or more secular-oriented path as a modern and moderate Muslim woman.

When she falls in love with Kamal and later finds out that he is married, she cuts off the relationship until he informs her that he is already divorced.

Woman director Shuhaimi Baba works with several pan-Asian-looking cosmopolitan actors who are regulars in her films. When Nina discovers this, she tries to convince the other women to expose the corrupt politician for his involvement in the sex scandal and murder.

Shuhaimi Baba continued to make films with some of the same cast of actors she worked with in earlier films as well as other pan-Asian looking actors in subsequent films: Heart of Malaya, 2007. The use of pan-Asian actors is intended to broaden the appeal of Malay films and reach out to the English-speaking Malaysian middle class including Chinese and Indians.

Concurrently it projects a modern cosmopolitan and multicultural longing onto the core ethnic Malay mass audience. The move to producing more popular genres such as horror and the historical 1957: Hati Malaya, which affirmed the conservative version of history at Malaysia's fiftieth anniversary, displays perhaps the logics and triumph of commercialism over art and social critique.

Although all her films continue to feature strong lead roles for women, Layar Lara — which is about the legacy of the studio era to a contemporary generation of film actors — still appears to be her best film to date. Erma Fatima In the late 1990s, Shuhaimi Baba shared the stage with Erma Fatima, another notable woman filmmaker in the Malay film industry.

Adat in this case is represented through tarian asyik, a dance form from Kelantan, here musically accompanied by gamelan Terengganu. The film does not go far enough in its feminist sentiments to challenge the patriarchal assumptions of both male characters who want Mustika to conform to their needs and desires.

Instead, it seems to support the mixed messages about women and modernity in the media. Erma Fatima's most ambitious and costliest film was Embun 2002. Embun was hugely problematic for its historical inaccuracies and was dogged by controversy over a question of control over the original script, written by Rohiman Haroon and vastly modified by the filmmaker, extreme sensationalism, and lack of psychological depth into its heroine's character.

The setting of the film during the 1940s predates resurgent Islam and the filmmaker was less interested in making a point about Islam than in creating herstory at a time of anticolonial anti- British and anti-Japanese resistance. Suffice it to say Embun was not only costly from an economic perspective, but also to Erma's career. Since then, she has malaysian film industry construct malaysian identity cultural studies essay directed one comedy, Diva Popular Popular Diva 2006. When compared to the short indie digital mockumentary, An Afternoon with the Hijjabed 2006The Last Malay Woman seems to take itself too seriously.

In the film, five young women of diverse personalities sit over tea one afternoon to ponder the consequences of wearing the tudung headscarf. Made for a competition sponsored by the Goethe Institut-Kuala Lumpur and organized by the Kelab Seni Filem Art Film Club on the theme of tudung, the mockumentary's focus on individual people's opinions about the tudung reduces a sociopolitical structural phenomenon that remains unanalysed to the level of individual agents, whose bodies bear out the late consequences of state capitalist Islamic modernity.

These would include changes to family law that will disadvantage Muslim women under growing Syariah, and the ability of Muslim husbands to divorce their wives through text messaging. Race and religion in independent Malaysian cinema: Yasmin Ahmad Among all the women directors mentioned so far, Yasmin Ahmad was the one who dealt most directly and subversively with the topic of Islam and women.

Unlike Shuhaimi who had film school training in the United Kingdom, and actor-turned director Erma Fatima who took a filmmaking course in Indonesia, Yasmin Ahmad's background was in advertising.

Of Identity and Vibrancy: The Real Cinema of Malaysia

Executive creative director of Leo Burnett, a major advertising firm in Malaysia, she rose to fame for her commercials touting multiethnic harmony made for the national Malaysian gas and oil company, Petronas. Her first film was a teledrama, Rabun My Failing Eyesight, 2003which focused mainly on a retired Malay couple who expressed their love and affection openly by taking showers together and teasing and playing with each other almost like children.

A scene of the 70-year old couple washing each other lovingly in their garden in the village but wearing sarungs, his around his waist and hers around her midriff was cut by the censors. In terms of reception, Ahmad's film trilogy about Orked, a Malay girl from a liberal Muslim background who falls in love with Jason, a Chinese black market VCD seller, has received critical and popular success overseas and, arguably, also at home.

For example, Akmal pointed out that the bilal muezzin in Gubra should have reported the two sex workers in his neighborhood to the religious authorities rather than showing them compassion and understanding. These negative reactions are based on the fear that her films undermine Malay hegemony by upholding a Sufi mystical Islam over a more scripturalist Wahhabist Islam, and equate all religions as the same. A quotation from the Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, closes Gubra: According to Tehrani, equating everyone in the eyes of God is the devil's work.

His position reflects the hate ideology of Islamists, which according to political commentator Farish Noor, is founded on the twin pillars of political authoritarianism and patriarchy Farish Noor 2005, 196.

  • A quotation from the Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, closes Gubra;
  • Circumventing government censorship through online distribution, it quite openly demonstrated against ethnically motivated policies and for unity and togetherness among the people;
  • Job materials and application essays application essays how to quote a source short direct prose;
  • How to use quotes effectively most, if not all, of your college professors will require you to use research material as a vital component of your writing;
  • The studio system is described as a multicultural or pluralist system because it relied on Malay actors, Indian directors and editors, and Hong Kong Chinese crews.

This ideology of hate is tied very much to maintaining Malay dominance and ethnic rights and concurrently, Islam, as an integral part of Malay identity whose superiority as the national religion cannot be challenged in the civil courts.

In contrast, Ahmad's films are timely reminders that humanism and compassion transcend differences which have been accentuated by race-based policies, systemic racialization, and Islamization. In Gubra, it is written in Arabic script and the theme of mercy and compassion permeates the film. In Muallaf 2008it is represented in Chinese script and in Talentime 2009in Tamil.