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The Cinematic Portrayal of Cultural Identity in the Malaysian Top-Grossing Movie The Journey

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This research investigates how multiculturalism interacts with sub-state nationalism as portrayed in the Malaysian top-grossing film The Journey directed by Chiu Keng Guan in 2014. It inevitably gives attention to particular Malaysian cultural norms and nuances. The nature of Malaysian society and its colonial history might suggest that cultural interaction among its three major races is a norm, but this study argues that the culture of these three major races as portrayed in the fictional film is made up of “systems of representations;” such systems of representations do not reflect the intentions of the subjects, but rather, actively construct meanings as conditions and instruments, signifying practice in reality. The application of in-depth interviews (e.g., the film director and the screenplay writer) discovered cultural identity depicted in the film as always having a specific ‘positionality’ within their representation, and the ideological struggle of multicultural nationalism embedded in the film is considered ‘non-subjective.’ The authors believe that every culture is local, but no culture is autochthonous, and cultural identity illustrated in the film can be regarded as ‘uniqueness of the soil.’
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Keywords: Cultural Identity; Film Studies; Malaysian Cinema; Multicultural Nationalism; Systems of Representations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Communication, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, 11800, Malaysia 2: School of Journalism and Communication, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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