The pontianak is one of the most popular supernatural creatures, or hantu, in Malay cinema; a female vampire who has died as a result of male violence or childbirth and who returns to haunt patriarchy. A staple of the Singapore-based studio films of the late colonial era, the pontianak has re-emerged in the 21st century in both Singapore and Malaysia as a terrifying figure that overthrows both normativities of gender and presiding narratives of national identity. The pontianak has always encoded a queer ambiguity about desirability and repulsion, femininity and monstrosity, and this troubling of gender echoes from the popular horror films of the late colonial era to feminist and queer filmmaking in the present day. As a vengeful female spirit, the pontianak has obvious feminist potential, but she disrupts other orthodoxies too: about femininity and modernity; globalisation and indigeneity; racial and national identities; and the relationship of Islam to animism. This book talk will discuss manifestations of the pontianak from classical 1950s horror to contemporary art cinema, and will consider this haunting figure as a way of thinking both anticolonial aesthetics and ‘world cinema’.
No registration required.
Rosalind Galt is Professor in Film Studies at King’s College London. She is the author of Alluring Monsters: the Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization (2021), Queer Cinema in the World (coauthored with Karl Schoonover, 2016), Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image (2011), and The New European Cinema: Redrawing the Map (2006), as well as coeditor of Global Art Cinema: New Theories and Histories (2010).
In 2019-20, she was the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and a Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellowship in Contemporary Southeast Asia.
She holds a PhD in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University (2002), and an MA (Hons) in Film and Television Studies and English Literature from the University of Glasgow (1993).
Before joining King’s in 2013, she taught at the University of Sussex and the University of Iowa.