Early Cinematic Visualization of Umma: A 1928 film on the Hajj

Sandeep Ray

Singapore University Of Technology And Design, Singapore, Singapore

In 1928 G. Krugers, Director of the Java Film Company in Bandung completed a seventy-two minute documentary in four parts about Indonesian Muslims on a pilgrimage to Mecca. It was the first time such a film had been attempted. At a time when cameras were generally not permitted and non-Muslim were not allowed to enter the sacred zones, it was an unusual document, one that would become popular in years to come — Indonesians would frequently watch Mekka-Feest at movie theaters. A closely filmed, ethnographically rich account of a phenomenon that even in the 1920s saw about thirty to fifty thousand pilgrims voyaging from Java and Sumatra, the document has unfortunately remained in the slow lane of history. Presenting excerpts from the film, the author will argue that the global scope of the documentary made an early and rare cinematic statement promulgating a transnational unity of the Islamic faith.


Dr. Sandeep Ray’s primary research area is Southeast Asian history and visual studies. He has related interests in non-fiction film, the novel, memoirs, newsreels, and transnational approaches to Asian Studies. He is currently working on a book titled ‘Celluloid Colony,’ an analysis of colonial propaganda films produced in the Netherlands East Indies.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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