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The Cinema, Language and Identity
One of the scene of Borneo short, Sunset Over Selungo which will be screened at 1+RE)DISCOVER
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The Cinema, Language and Identity

by The Daily SeniSeptember 7, 2016

It brings us great joy to welcome back Wendi Sia for (1+RE)DISCOVER, our literally do-or-die thing happening at Mall of Medini in Nusajaya next weekend. Having curated a selection of films for the program in collaboration with The Daily Seni, Wendi will chart this journey through modern nusantara filmmaking via PANJANG (which includes Brunei’s first commercial film Ada Apa Dengan Rina and complex Indonesian treasure Melancholy Is A Movement) and PENDEK (short films galore). In the meantime, enjoy a glimpse of the magic with this teaser from Wendi.


THE Malay Archipelago, which comprises what are now the countries of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei, and is locally called the Nusantara, has shared history, politics, culture and language. Nonetheless, the similitude in the language is what makes these four countries closer to each other as compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. A sense of closeness exists — varying accents tell us there is essentially one language shared across this region. As such, the adoption of the term Nusantara is recognition of a shared identity.

Identity through language is formed by the pre-given structures of human linguistics, wherein the ‘the world of words…creates the world of things’.

This is a very Nietzchean conception of language. Nietzsche believed that “we are inevitably caught in a prison-house of language”, that “we have no choice but to think in language”. Ultimately, language coerces us into thinking in particular ways. Two thinkers, Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Lacan, respectively wrote that we must submit to the pre-existing system of linguistic rules (termed langue) in order to become a functioning member of society and that it is through language that society articulates the roles and identities available to the subject.

American philosopher C.S. Pierce writes: My language is the sum total of myself; for the man is the thought. The cinema is thought to be a language, an extension of reality in a Bazinian sense, where the cinema transforms the world into discourse. With the entry into language, comes the condition for subjectivity and identity. Language is used as a temporal device in cinema to explain a certain message rather than a fixed ground to meaning. How would one recognise or put meaning to an image, or how would the filmmaker express the idea of the image if not through language? Thus, perspectives and interpretations – the production of meaning – can only be done in language.

Charles_Sanders_Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce, an American philosopher

Observing the structuralist amalgam, meaning exists only within a system that is language. When the subject occupies the position as spectator, the individual is always entering and emerging as subject in language within the cinematic space. The subject is thus the individual always held in identity. However, language is not the sole determinant but rather an area of determinations, as there is no fixed ground to meaning placed in a text, language becomes the condition-and-effect of social practice. The subject interprets reality from the standpoint of his or her own needs or interests, in his or her own terms of social and historical context. The subject makes the meanings the film makes for it, and when this occurs, is the turn of the film as discourse.

Through this film screening, we seek to explore this shared identity of the Nusantara region, to find the similarities and differences in the authorship, narratives, images, and dialectics of the Malay Archipelago – as in the cine-semiotic sense, in which meaning is produced by a system of differences, and as Saussure put it, ‘in language there are only differences’.


Are you excited for a trip round the Nusantara? Save the date and come (1+RE)DISCOVER with Wendi at Screening Room, AFINITI, Nusajaya, Johor from 17-18 September 2016! Everything’s free of charge: pack sandwiches and hop on the 7:00am bus to Legoland, you’ll be just on time. Featured image from Sunset Over Selungo which screens at 5:00pm on 18 September 2016.

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The Daily Seni
The Daily Seni delivers news on local arts and culture, aiming to provide insight into Malaysia's ever-growing creative community as well as provoke thought and discussion.

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