‘White Rajah’ could be Sarawak’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ for tourism industry
By Jude Toyat
A feature film on the life Sir James Brooke entitled ‘White Rajah’ could be a significant boon to the state’s tourism industry, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Just as ‘Lord of the Rings’ boosted New Zealand as a tourism destination, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture hopes that ‘White Rajah’ will encourage more filmmakers to come and shoot their films here in Sarawak.
“‘White Rajah’ is an initiative by the state government to promote Sarawak as a natural studio and a result of negotiations between the Brooke Heritage Trust, the film producers and the state government through Sarawak Tourism Board the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture,” he said at the signing of the Equity Investment Agreement between Sarawak Tourism Board and Margate House Films on Sept 9.
The ‘White Rajah’ is touted to be a romantic, swashbuckling adventure which follows the exploits of English adventurer James Brooke as he falls in love with the beauty, people and culture of 1840s Sarawak.
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Ik Pahon Joyik, STB chairman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, British producer Simon Fawcett and American film producer Rob Allyn were involved in signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) witnessed by Abang Johari.
“The chief minister was very keen that the film be produced from a historical perspective as well as to give the true picture of the local situation when Brooke came in 1841,” said Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Housing and Urbanisation.
Abang Johari revealed that shooting would start in 2017, but did not disclose filming locations or the movie cast.
“We have been working on ‘White Rajah’ for five years, but the actual shooting will be about three months. We are tentatively looking to start the filming between May and August next year, during the dry season because most of this film will be outdoors,” said ‘White Rajah’ producer and scriptwriter Rob Allyn.
“There are still lots of preparatory work that we need to do prior to shooting and currently, we are scouting locations and will continue to do so for next couple of months.
“The next step will be a six months of site recce, logistic discussion, props construction and organising before the actual shooting in 2017,” said Allyn, who is also Margate House Films chairman and chief executive officer.
Abang Johari extended his gratitude to Brooke Heritage Trust chairman Jason Brooke, grandson to Anthony James Brooke, who acts as technical advisor to the movie.
“Jason led the Hollywood producers to Sarawak to assess Sarawak’s potential as a filming location and destination.
“We are also working with the trust to turn Fort Margherita into an exclusive Brooke Gallery where we will be exhibiting Brooke’s heritage and legacies,” he added.
Abang Johari also revealed that the bi-annual AIFFA will continue to be organised in 2017.
Also present were Assistant Minister for Arts and Culture Datuk John Sikie Tayai, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Mohamad Effendi Norwawi and wife Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina who is also a national arts activist and AIFFA festival director Livan Tajang.