Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Research Article

Film Melayu: Nationalism, modernity and film in a pre-World War Two Malay magazine

Timothy P. Barnard


Prior to World War Two many of the Malay-language films released in Singapore and Malaya were made in Java and the Philippines. Beginning in 1940 the Shaw Brothers began producing Malay films in Singapore for distribution to their theatre network throughout Malaya. The first Malay film magazine, Film Melayu, which began publishing in May 1941, documented the production and release of a number of these pre-war films in Singapore, providing one of the few avenues for a better understanding of the origins of Malay cinema. More importantly, this periodical was firmly ensconced within the Malay publishing community and thus reflects debates over issues ranging from the proper script to use in publishing to technology and its relationship to the nation (or community, bangsa).


Timothy P. Barnard is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore. Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: The author would like to thank Annabel Teh Gallop for her help during visits to the British Library, as well as the feedback from Mark Emmanuel, Henk Maier, Yung Sai-shing and one of the anonymous reviewers. Any mistakes, of course, are solely the author's.