This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: GOV 28).


The process of planning, constructing and operating a jungle fort (Fort Dixon) in the jungles of Pahang.

Over aerial shots of the jungle, the commentator announces that ‘In Malaya today the security forces have taken the initiative from Communist terrorists, they have driven the terrorists deeper and deeper into the deep jungle where it is difficult to get food’. Over further travelling aerial shots, the commentator explains that ‘until recently the aborigines had no alternative but to help the terrorists’, but now security forces are carving forts ‘literally out of the jungle’ to protect the aborigines and to help security forces organise in the jungle. After shots of a fort, the film shows a group of Europeans in Kuala Lumpur selecting a ‘suitable site’. The men then march through the jungle, find a spot and meet the aborigines to enlist their help. Over upbeat music, the film shows the cutting of tress, before highlighting the co-ordination with those in Kuala Lumpur, who send equipment, food and medical equipment straight away. The RAF drop off supplies, and the men in the jungle ‘get a medical post going’. Back in Kuala Lumpur, the Europeans continue to plan their operations. Helicopters then drop off Police and the men set to work ‘to build permanent defences’ (‘the aborigines are willing helpers’). After a lengthy sequence showing the construction, the film shows the SAS (Special Air Service) men on ‘constant patrol’. There is further footage of food and supplies, before the men are shown reading and relaxing with a radio, and games. Next, the film emphasises the ‘many advantages’ for the aborigines, including trading posts, schools, cultivation and a modern medical service. The narrative concludes with another aerial shot as the helicopter flies off from the jungle. The commentator explains ‘it’s a hard life… but the men know that the forts deny the terrorists the vital food they need and that they put the security forces within shooting distance of Malaya’s enemies, the Communist terrorists, and thus bring us nearer to final victory’.


Synopsis by Dr Tom Rice - AHRC Colonial Film Catalogue, Feb 2010



At the end of August 1953, the Malayan Film Unit arranged a film show to mark its seventh birthday at the Coliseum Cinema in Singapore. Attended by the High Commissioner, General Sir Gerald Templer, the Deputy High Commissioner, Chief Secretary and other members of government, the show was followed by a further screening for the Singapore critics at the Film Censor’s office. The screenings included six of the latest MFU films (and extracts from five others) and the press reserved particular praise for two films, Before the Wind and Jungle Fort. The Straits Times described Jungle Fort as the ‘most impressive’, a ‘film which can be shown anywhere in the world and draw gasps of surprise – and praise. A truly excellent effort’ (Straits Times, 6 September 1953, 13).

The government’s Annual Report emphasised the importance of these screenings in highlighting the growth of the Malayan Film Unit and its potential value within the emergency:

The publicity resulting from this programme did much to make the Malayan public realise the value of the work of the MFU which has been steadily and quietly building up its experience in the years since the war. The programme was enthusiastically received by the press and it came as a revelation to most people that not only was the technical standard so high, but that films could so obviously be valuable as a means of instruction, of breaking down racial boundaries, of interpreting the customs and culture of one community to another, and generally being a uniting factor in the growth of Malaya towards nationhood.

The Unit made 55 new films during 1953 (as well as 38 newsreels which were sent to London for use in the United Kingdom and America), producing 14,054 prints on 16mm and 1,487 on 35mm. This led to an increase in revenue for the MFU of 952 per cent over the previous year (from $17,612 to $185,260) (Annual Report, 1953, 319, 320).

During the year, the number of mobile units travelling the villages and kampongs rose from 63 in March, to 87 in April and 90 by November (including seven boats) (Ramakrishna, 2002, 147). A. D. C. Peterson, the Director General of the Information Services, claimed in a letter to The Times in October 1953, that these mobile cinemas would reach an audience of approximately 750,000 each month ‘with an extra quarter of a million reached by brief “public address” visits to smaller villages on the way’. Peterson added that ‘the majority of the films they show are made by Malayan technicians at the Malayan Film Unit and illustrate themes of real importance to the rural population. Their audience is approximately one-eighth of the total population of the country each month’ (The Times, 13 October 1953, 11). Peterson emphasised in particular the importance of presenting film shows to the rural Chinese, while the units would often also include SEPs (Surrendered Enemy Personnel), who would outline the difficulties of life in the jungle, ‘the mistrust between leaders and rank and file, and why they finally quit’ (Ramakrishna, 2002, 147).

Jungle Fort was directed by Osman Bin Shamsuddin, who had initially worked as a 19-year old on Voices of Malaya with Ralph Elton and the Crown Film Unit crew that came to Malaya after the war. Jungle Fort was also exhibited overseas – most notably in Britain (through New Realm) and America (British Information Services). Tom Hodge, the head of the MFU, in discussing his visit to the UK in 1954, stated that ‘People I met knew, for example, about our jungle forts, of kampong elections, of the work of the Security Forces, of the development of Women’s Institutes and of our thriving youth organisations. And in most cases all this knowledge has been learnt from seeing our films’ (Weekly News Summary, 19 February 1955, 10). Film News described the film as ‘tensely dramatic and interesting’ and added that ‘there is much food for thought in the cooperation exhibited here, as well as in the juxtaposition of ancient, aboriginal but still valid methods, and 20th century machines and techniques’ (Film News, Fall 1955, 28). Monthly Film Bulletin was less enamoured with the film, describing it as ‘rather clumsily and unimaginatively made… it does not make any fresh comment on the situation in Malaya today’ (Monthly Film Bulletin, 1954, 138).

The film shows the development of Fort Dixon in the jungles of Pahang. From early 1953, the government had established jungle forts (there were 5 by June 1953 and 11 of them by 1957) and these were intended both to provide an operational outpost for the Security Forces deep within the jungle, and to protect the aborigines therein. By 1954, the government claimed that 1,800 aborigines previously under communist control were living around these forts under Police Field Force protection (Straits Times, 19 July 1954, 6). In particular, as part of the government’s continuing efforts to starve, what British propaganda referred to as the ‘Communist Terrorists’ (CTs) out of the jungle, the jungle forts sought to sever the links between the aborigines and the ‘CTs’. As the ‘CTs’ were drawn deeper into the jungle, they were increasingly reliant on the aborigines for their food, and employed them to clear and cultivate the land. The government emphasised both the operational success and the welfare developments provided through these forts. A newspaper report in February 1955 described the operations in Fort Dixon and concluded that ‘for nearly 18 months now the area has been free of terrorist incidents. The deep friendship that has been slowly built up between the men in the fort and the simple Senoi tribesmen is strong enough in itself to curb any terrorist plan to win back the aborigines on the side of Communism’ (Straits Times, 4 February 1955, 8). However, the jungle forts, like the earlier displacement and resettlement schemes, were criticised by many for the hugely unsettling effect on the culture and lifestyle of these groups (Harper, 2001, 270).



Jungle Fort begins with an aerial shot of the jungle. While highlighting the enormity of the area, this lengthy opening shot also emphasises both the surveillance operations of the Emergency Forces and, in particular, the modern technology and transportation facilities available to the government. These aerial shots illustrate, especially to local Malayan audiences, the primacy of the Emergency forces and also, indirectly, the potential aerial threat they posed. The film illustrates the organised and co-ordinated operations within the fort. This is achieved through the film’s narrative structure – which begins with the arrival of the helicopter and concludes with its departure – and through its recurring shots of the European men in Kuala Lumpur planning the potential sites and then arranging the deployment of men and supplies to the fort.

The film serves to promote the government’s methods of warfare, both to audiences within Malaya and overseas. It highlights the proposed centrality of the welfare of the aborigines to its policies, showing the development of schools, medical centres and trading posts. Within a rhetoric of colonial development, the film offers no consideration of the impact such policies were having on the cultural identity of the aborigines, and also presents the aborigines as ‘willing helpers’ rather than as a cheap labour force or reluctantly relocated group. In emphasising this collaboration – ‘the hard work done by the SAS men and aborigines’ – the film shows a succession of shots of smiling aborigines and suggests throughout that they very quickly and willingly shifted their support to the British forces.

Finally, the film places particular emphasis on the food and supplies provided. It displays the food to the audience – showing the chicken to the camera – while the commentator stresses ‘extra food too for the aborigines’. SEP reports illustrated the impact that a lack of food was having on ‘terrorists’ in the jungle, who were reduced to eating ‘boiled rubber leaves’. This shortage was credited in October 1953 as the main reason for relative ‘terrorist’ inactivity and as an increasingly important reason for surrender. Within this context, this lingering display of food, appeals directly to the ‘CTs’ and to those rural Chinese sympathetic to the cause (Ramakrishna, 2002, 143).

Tom Rice (February 2010)


Works Cited

Federation of Malaya, Annual Report, 1953 (London; Kuala Lumpur, 1953).

‘Jungle Fort’, Film News, Volume 15, Number 3, (Fall 1955), 14, 28.

Follows, Roy, The Jungle Beat: Fighting Terrorists in Malaya (Bridgnorth: TravellersEye, 1999).

Harper, T.N. The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

‘Jungle Fort’, Monthly Film Bulletin, 1954, 138.

Ramakrishna, Kumar, Emergency Propaganda: The Winning of Malayan Hearts and Minds 1948-1958 (Richmond: Curzon Press. 2002).

‘Malaya’s Own Film Unit is of Age’, The Straits Times, 4 September 1953, 9.

‘A Bouquet for the Men of the M.F.U.’, The Straits Times, 6 September 1953, 13.

‘Jungle Battle for Hearts, Minds of the Aborigines’, The Straits Times, 19 July 1954, 6.

‘Life in Jungle Fort – It’s like an Old Western’, The Straits Times, 4 February 1955, 8.

Peterson, A.D.C., ‘News Services In Malaya Campaign Against Communism’, The Times, 13 October 1953, 11.

‘M.F.U. Tells Britain about Malaya’, Weekly News Summary, 19 February 1955, 10-11.




Technical Data

Running Time:
17 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
600ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Federation of Malaya
Production company
Malayan Film Unit





Production Organisations