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The Colonial Documentary Film in South and South-East Asia

Edited by Ian Aitken, Camille Deprez

Paperback (Forthcoming)
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The first anthology to focus primarily on the use of official and colonial documentary films in the South and South-East Asian regions

Based on rare archival documents and films, this anthology is the first to focus primarily on the use of official and colonial documentary films in the South and South-East Asian regions. Drawing together a range of international scholars, the book sheds new light on historical, theoretical and empirical issues pertaining to the documentary film, in order to better comprehend the significant transformations of the form in the colonial, late colonial and immediate post-colonial period. Covering diverse geographical and colonial contexts in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong, and focusing on under-researched or little-known films, it demonstrate the complex set of relations between the colonisers and the colonised throughout the region.

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Table of Content

Part 1. Issues of Colonialism, Late Colonialism and Independence
Chapter 1. The People’s Action Party Government of Singapore and Berita Singapura (Ian Aitken)
Chapter 2. Merdeka for Malaya: Imagining Independence Across the British Empire (Tom Rice)
Chapter 3. The Language of Counterinsurgency in Malaya: Dialectical Soundscapes of Salvage and Warfare (Peter J. Bloom)
Chapter 4. Figures of Empire: American Documentaries in the Philippines (José B. Capino)

Part 2. Missionary Films and Christian Evangelism
Chapter 5. Two Films and a Coronation: The Containment of Islam in Flores in the 1920s (Sandeep Ray)
Chapter 6. Paradoxical Legacies: Colonial Missionary Films, Corporate Philanthropy in South Asia and the Griersonian Documentary Tradition (Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes)
Chapter 7. Conversion, Salvation and the ‘Civilising Mission’: Christian Missions and Documentary Film in India (1900-1960) (Emma Sandon)

Part 3. Documentary representations: Projections, Idealised and Imaginary Images
Chapter 8. Screening the Revolution in Rural Vietnam: Guerrilla Cinema across the Mekong Delta (Thong Win)
Chapter 9. Ho Chi Minh in France: An Early Independence Newsreel (Dean Wilson)
Chapter 10. Archives of the Planet: French Elitist Representations of Colonial India (Camille Deprez)
Chapter 11. ‘Sufficient Dramatic or Adventure Interest’: Authenticity, Reality and Violence in Pre-War Animal Documentaries from South-East Asia (Timothy P. Barnard)

List of Contributors

About the Author

Ian Aitken is Professor of Film Studies at the School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University. His most recent publications include Hong Kong Documentary Film (Edinburgh: EUP, 2014), and Lukácsian Film Theory and Cinema: An Analysis of Georg Lukács’ Writings on Film 1913-1971 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2012).

Camille Deprez is Research Assistant Professor, Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University. A specialist of Indian documentary cinema and French colonial documentary in Asia, she is the co-editor of Post-1990 Documentary: Reconfiguring Independence (Edinburgh University Press, 2015).


'Documentary cinema and related forms of state produced film framed and facilitated the colonization of South and South-East Asia, and this important new volume explores that history across the region and the twentieth century. By doing so it makes a significant and singular contribution to the burgeoning scholarly work on the political uses of cinema, particularly in sustaining imperialism and across the partial, halting, transition to "post-colonial" states.'

- Dr Lee Grieveson, University College London