Nation and Representation: Western Filmmaking in Siam from 1908 to 1938. A Talk by Alexander J. Klemm



The lecture starts by outlining the beginnings of European filmmaking in Siam before World War I. The focus lies on scenics commissioned by the Danish company Nordisk Film and the French company Pathé Frères and draws connections to 19th-century European photography of Siam. The discussion then moves to the emergence of the travelogue film genre during the silent film period and a series of Siam-set short films commissioned by Burton Holmes (aka “the man who photographed the world”). In Siamese Society (USA 1919) and Teak Logging with Elephants (USA 1919) are used for illustration. Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (USA 1927) of the late silent film period is the focus of the lecture’s third part. The director-duo Schoedsack and Cooper, best known for having conceived the original King Kong movie, won an Academy Award for this ethnographic drama filmed in the jungle of Nan. The lecture closes with an overview of more sophisticated travelogue films of the early sound era. From Siam to Korea (USA 1931) and Serene Siam (USA 1937) serve as examples and the guiding force of the voiceover narration by James A. Fitzpatrick (aka “The Voice of the Globe”) is of particular interest here.

Dr Alexander J. Klemm holds a PhD in Media and Communications (European Graduate School, 2008), a Licentiate/MA in English Literature, Linguistics, and Film Studies (Zurich University, 2001) and a TESL certificate (UC Berkeley, 2003). He has been teaching and conducting research at various Thai universities since 2005 and has recently joined King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. Dr Klemm has published extensively on the history of European and US American fiction films and documentaries set in Thailand.

Date: Thursday 17 October 2019
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2019-2020 Lecture Series.