Screening Islam: the representations of religion and gender in different genres of Islamic films in Malaysia

2019-06-27T08:40:51Z (GMT) by Suria A-Rahman
This study seeks to analyse how genres shape the way in which religion is represented in Malaysian ‘Islamic’ films. It is interesting to study how Malaysian filmmakers represent Islam, because Malaysia is a multi ethnic and religious country with a rising film industry and Islam as the official religion of the state. This thesis examines how film’s generic conventions act as meaning-making tools, contributing to different representations of Islam and gender. The thesis employs narrative analysis to analyse the structure of plots and construction of meaning in the films. A total of 13 recent Islamic films were selected, and the analyses illustrate how the films construct different representations of Islam through the genres of horror, comedy, melodrama and art house. A key narrative feature of all the films analysed is the centrality of the life quest of the main protagonist. However, this quest takes significantly different forms in the diverse genres, casting religion and gender rather differently. In the various genres, the life quest may centre around perpetual punishment for worldly or superstitious desires, ‘happy ending’ reward for abandonment of material and Western values, enduring of gendered hardships which reflecting both obedience and strength, and contradictory exposing and forgiving violence. This thesis discusses how religious and gendered subjectivities are made and remade in the intersection between Western conventions of cinematic genres and the specific cultural, religious and political context of Malaysia.