Five Fabulous Movies Filmed in Malaysia

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This country’s beauty hasn’t failed to capture the attention of Hollywood on a handful of occasions, and few Malaysians realize that a collection of awards winning movies were brought to life on these very shores.

Malaysia may not be Hollywood – it’s not even Bollywood – but that doesn’t stop movie producers and directors from creating celluloid heroes on Malaysian soil. Over the years, several internationally acclaimed movies have been shot in Malaysia, including at least two that have won Oscars, although few locals realize that gong winners Indochine and South Pacific were filmed on location in this fair land. Movie buffs will want to head off to these locations to take in the ambiance and feel the energy from these films, and watching the movies or visiting the filming locations is a good way to be reminded of the charms of this country that have wooed the mighty film studios over the years. Here are five movies filmed in Malaysia which have attained international recognition.

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“And, the winner is… Indochine.” So it was proclaimed in 1992 at the 65th Academy Awards (the Oscars) as the envelope for Best Foreign Language Film was opened onstage. The movie followed the tale of Élaine Devries, a French plantation owner living in Vietnam, and her adopted Vietnamese daughter Camille. The Régis Wargnier-directed movie starred the famous, gracious Catherine Deneuvre alongside Vincent Perez, and Deneuvre’s performance led to her one and only nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Movie buffs will be pleased to know that, despite the Vietnamese theme, much of the movie was shot in Penang, Ipoh, Parit, and Sham Alam. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang is one of the most famous sites featured in the movie, and many film fans make a pilgrimage to troop around the still beautiful mansion. Many of the other locations were used merely to create temporary sets and/or altered to look like French colonial Vietnam, so there is little left for the eager movie buff.


Penang was one of the local locations used in the Hollywood blockbuster Anna and the King, as were Parit and Shah Alam; perhaps the location scouts for this movie worked on Indochine. Many local kids were auditioned for the smaller roles in the movie, which starred Jodie Foster, Chow Yun Fat, and Bai Ling. Anna and the King was the third movie based upon the tale of English school teacher Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut of Thailand and, interestingly, all three movies are banned in Thailand. Not only are the movies banned but so was the film crew for Anna and the King, hence the film being made on location in neighbouring Malaysia. Langkawi’s Pantai Kok (where the Danna Hotel is now located) and the island’s mangroves were used as backdrops, as were Armenian Street (Syed Alatas Mansion at number 128), Khoo Kongsi, and Penang Town Hall. Rumah Besar Bapan and Parit near Ipoh can also be seen in the movie and might be worth a visit for die-hard fans.


Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones were the big names in the 1999 Jon Amieldirected movie Entrapment. Some of the most exciting scenes in this movie, which centred around two international art thieves played by the British stars, were shot around the iconic Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. This big box office success also used Bukit Jalil LRT station as a backdrop, although it went by the name of Pudu LRT station in the movie. The finished film managed to irk some Malaysians when the protagonists moved from the Twin Towers to the riverfront of the Melaka River in a matter of minutes, while the two stars also managed to upset movie viewers in general: the movie was nominated in the annual Razzie Awards for the Worst Actress and Worst Scene Couple categories following release.



This 2003 Guy Jenkin-directed movie was shot in Sarawak and set in the 1930s during the British colonial rule, although the historic premise for the movie was incorrect; the White Rajahs controlled Sarawak then, and not the British. The filmed starred Hugh Dancy, Bob Hoskins, Jessica Alba, and Noah Taylor and the title refers to the local sleeping partner of the English protagonist, in addition to his other nocturnal activities, that enabled him to learn the local language and culture. Much of the movie was filmed around Batang Ai in the Sarawakian interior, with the crew staying at the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort. Bob Hoskins subsequently won a DVD Award for Best Actor.


The Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific is the controversial entry in Malaysia’s hall of movie location fame, as some quarters question whether footage of Malaysia actually made it into the movie. Movie historians note that the movie, based upon James A. Michener’s book, Tales of the South Pacific, was shot in Hawaii and used additional footage from Ibiza (Spanish Balearic Islands), Fiji, and Tioman Island. Despite this, some suggest that obtaining footage of the latter would have been very difficult in 1958 when the movie was made. However, the island’s tourism authorities think differently, and have been dining out on the possible connection since 1958. Interestingly, Doris Day declined a role in the movie while Elizabeth Taylor failed her singing audition for the role of Ensign Nellie Forbush, a role ultimately filled by Mitzi Gaynor. Fred Hynes won South Pacific an Oscar for Sound at the 31st Academy Awards.


Source: Senses of Malaysia Nov-Dec 2012

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