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Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (2) - Historicising Malaysian Cinema through Genre


Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (2)
Historicising Malaysian Cinema through Genre

Speaker:Norman Yusoff (Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia)
Time:27th Apr (Sat), 1pm-3pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
*Lecture in English
Speaker’s intro:
Norman Yusoff is Head of the Centre for Postgraduate Studies, Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia, where he also teaches film studies. He obtained his PhD degree from the University of Sydney, with a thesis focusing on genre, gender and temporality in contemporary Malaysian cinema. Norman has published articles in the Asian Cinema and the International Film Guide. He is also a film columnist with the Malay-language daily Mingguan Malaysia and curates the fortnightly Wayang Budiman programme.
Discussant: Au Sow Yee (artist)
Au Sow-Yee, born 1978 in Malaysia, she now lives and works in Taipei. AU’s works focus mainly in questioning, exploring as well as expanding the relation between images, image making, history, politics and power, through video installation and other mediums. Sow-Yee’s recent works focus on re-imagined history of Malaysia, South-east Asia and it’s related region from perceptions and ideologies bounded by the Cold War. A finalist for the 2018 Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize and Han Nefkens Foundation - Loop Barcelona Video Art Award 2018, Sow-Yee’s works were exhibited in MMCA (Seoul), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), HKW (Berlin), Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, Singapore Film Festival among others. Sow-Yee is a guest writer for online magazine No Man’s Land and co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s Rumah Attap Library and Collective in 2017.

During the golden age of Malaysian cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, two film studios – Shaw Brothers and Cathay-Keris – dominated film production, distribution and exhibition. In their efforts to attract audiences, both studios emphasised ‘product differentiation,’ a strategy that often took the form of ‘star’. However, there was ample evidence of the occasions on which ‘genre’ was also employed in their production marketing strategies. This lecture attempts to trace ‘genre’ of old films by historicising Malaysian cinema. In the process I argue that genres of Malay films had their own conventions due to their borrowing from – and adaptation of – various local, regional and transnational media and cultural forms. Although most of the films may not have been formulated within a Hollywood-style, generic framework, some entailed genre elements whereas others were unarguably genre films. The popularity of Hong Kong genre films in British Malaya, as well as cosmopolitan film practice (involving South Indian and Filipino filmmakers in the early phase), contributed to the influencing and shaping of Malay films’ genre and content. This lecture claims that early Malay film genres transcended the binary between realist and non-realist genres which is assumed in most Anglo-American film scholarship. Many Malay film narratives, which in the main were imbued with elements of magic and superstition, exhibited either non-sociological modes of the fantastic or anachronism that ruptured modern, homogeneous notions of time. As the lecture will suggest, this tendency alludes to the prototype of Malay film genres, purba films, a form of period film or costume drama that had its roots in theatrical forms (bangsawan and sandiwara) and folk literature (regional myths, folklore and historico-legends), which taken together could be considered ‘genre narratives’.

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