History and development of documentary production in Malaysia
Yasin, Megat Al Imran (2007) History and development of documentary production in Malaysia. In: 6 th. Biennial PACA Convention, 7-9 Jan 2006, Honolulu .
The purpose of this paper is to unveil some of the history and development of documentary programme making in Malaysia, from the establishment of the Malaysian Film Unit (currently known as Filem Negara Malaysia) by the British colonials office in 1946 after the World War II until the period of commercialisation of television stations in Malaysia. The Malayan Film Unit was part of the Department of Information set up by the British government after the Second World War in 1946 that serve as propaganda tools to disseminate the government’s information. Therefore it is significant in this study to share the information about the British people involvement in setting up documentary film movement (as part of documentary film movement in Britain) in Malaysia (formerly known as Malaya). After the independence in 1957 the Malaysian government continue to use the Malayan Film Unit (currently known as Filem Negara Malaya) together with radio Television Malaysia (RTM) to disseminate propaganda messages in the form of thematic government campaign to the people of Malaysia. As a result documentary films produced by Film Negara and RTM are packed with official and thematic government campaigns that appear to be dull and less attractive to the audience. The commercialisation of mass media in Malaysia has significant influence on the state of documentary production in Malaysia. Currently producers and television stations give emphasis on the human interest issues spiced up with sensational elements such as superstition and horror to increase the rating of the programmes. These type of programmes received criticism from the Ministry of Information as they could weaken the mind of the audience especially children and youngster. It is important to note that in writing this paper, the writer is reliant on the verbal accounts and the personal notes of the respondents of the interviews, as very little information about the history documentary film making has been published and written academically in Malaysia. The main source of information for this chapter is gathered from the respondents of the in-depth interviews, some of whom have kept archive materials on the history of the Malaysian documentary production as well as their through their experience involve in the production of documentary programmes.. In writing up the early history of Malaysian documentary production by the Malayan Film Unit, the researcher owes gratitude to Mr. Hassan Muthalib, an enthusiast who collects archive and historical materials about film and documentary in Malaysia. Mr Hassan also is a former Filem Negara staff member, and worked in Filem Negara for more than 20 years. His vast experience in Filem Negara makes him one of the most important resources for this study. This paper also deals with the development of documentary filmmaking in Malaysia and its relationship with television as medium of screening. The researcher also conducted in-depth interview with the producers in several television stations and independent production companies in order to investigate the problems and challenges faced by the producers to produce documentary programmes. Besides that the researcher’s personal working experience as a documentary producer with one of Malaysian private television station has exposed him to a great deal of information about the involvement of the station with documentary productions
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