Historical films and the Asian nations: struggles for independence and emancipation – a gendered perspective

2017-01-31T05:11:59Z (GMT) by Wan Yahaya, Wan Aida
This thesis explores in detail fourteen historical films about Asian nations, most made by indigenous production companies and directors from the countries depicted in the films. The thesis has concentrated on films from Southeast Asia, but includes extensive discussion of two films made about Indian history and of two films made about Japanese history. The thesis concentrates on films concerned with issues of national independence, the period of the formation of the nation, and with women’s emancipation and women’s rights to self-determination. One reason for the selection of these topics is that these topics are quite common concerns in historical films made in Asian countries, particularly in the Southeast Asian region, which is the main focus of the study, and which is a region where many countries were colonised, at least from the nineteenth century onwards. In addressing the topic of the historical film, a number of concerns have figured prominently. A primary concern raised by the thesis is the question of the adequacy of historical films to the representation of the modern history of some of the nations under discussion. This has led into discussions of how the films represent national struggles, but also how they are discourses engaging with their societies at the time the film was made, and in what ways these films end up supporting or challenging hegemonic views of the nation. The discussion of films about the periods of the national struggle for independence is mainly explored in relation to films about Indian and Malaysian history, in chapters in the first half of the thesis. The second half of the thesis is concerned with the representation of women in history, particularly in struggles for freedom from an oppressive patriarchy, in struggles for women’s rights, for emancipation generally and for education. While most of the thesis discusses historical films made about situations in history post 1880, one chapter in the thesis (Chapter Four, Representation of Women in Historical Films about Early Modern Southeast Asia) deals with periods as far back as the fifteenth century. The division of the thesis, in such a way as to spend half of the thesis on the representation of women in historical films, is in accord with priorities in relatively recent Asian historical films, and with my own concern to ensure that women are seen as part of history. The thesis also includes a discussion of the different forms that historical films can take, and how this is often determined by the kinds of historical knowledge and of historical documentation that are available from different periods.