Archiving in Malaysia

A visit to Filem Negara
 Rod Butler
Filem Negara building, Kuala Lumpur


When I woke up today to a bright and hot Kuala Lumpur morning, watching an award winning documentary about traditional circumcision wasn’t, I have to say, high on my list of things to do. However, that’s exactly what I found myself doing as part of a tour of the Filem Negara facility.



Filem Negara Malaysia (FNM) is a government body that is responsible for disseminating information about government initiatives and achievements through the production of documentaries and trailers. They supply material to government, broadcasters and the general public.

Their facilities are very impressive. Three years ago they received government funds to upgrade their facilities, which included the purchase of a Spirit HD telecine (that copies content from film to video), and an Arrilaser Film Recorder (that allows you to copy from data files onto motion picture film). They use these facilities as part of an end to end production workflow — from script development to production and dissemination.
Mr Tan Kah Poh in the Filem Negara Malaysia film vaults


Our generous host, Mr Tan Kah Poh, Assistant Laboratory Manager, also provided a tour of FNM’s storage facility that not only holds thousands of items from the FNM collection, but is also rented by other government agencies for collection storage. Each film can contained what looked like a small glass button. These small buttons react with the environment inside the can in such a way that when the air inside reaches a certain acidic level, they turn from green to yellow, indicating that the film is deteriorating.

We were also introduced to the Animation Department who create high quality animation trailers and ads on a wide variety of topics including several animations promoting the general election.


And then there was the circumcision video. Graphic, shocking and painful to watch – but also a compelling look into Malaysian culture. Or rather, traditional Malaysian culture. When the documentary finished, the Malaysian lady sitting next to me leant over with a pained expression on her face and whispered ‘We don’t do that now. We go to hospitals now.’