This film is held by the BFI (ID: 14491).


Film about the Dunlop Rubber Co's worldwide activities, particularly in its 13 rubber estates in Malacca. The film looks at the amenities on the estate and the anti-bandit security measures.

Introduced as a story of 'British achievement in the rubber industry today', 'Dunlop in Malaya' outlines the development of the rubber industry within Malaya over the last fifty years. The commentator explains that 'The company assumes the responsibility for the welfare and employment of 20,000 people of widely differing nationalities, traditions and creeds', as each group of workers is introduced. The film shows the different religions catered for, the 'modern houses' and the roads and hospitals provided for employees. Next, it shows schools and recreational activities, before focussing on the industrial processes and the clearing of the land. The tone of the film then shifts as it highlights the work of the company in implementing 'security measures for the personnel on the estate'. The film celebrates the continuing work of the company during the Emergency. Finally, the rubber is loaded for Britain. The commentator states here that 'The fact that Dunlop Malayan estates have played and will continue to play so vital a part in this service is a British achievement to which they can justly be proud'.



Dunlop in Malaya was made ‘primarily to give employees of the firm in all its numerous branches an idea of the way of life of their colleagues in Malaya’ (Rubber Developments, 1955, 81). As an instructional film, it was also intended to show these employees ‘the technique of producing and processing the rubber for shipment’, and played extensively in factories within Britain and overseas (Rubber Journal, 21 May 1955, 651).

An article within Rubber Journal explained that ‘In this country the film will be seen in Birmingham at Fort Dunlop; in Liverpool at Speke and Walton; in Leicester at St Mary’s Mills; in Manchester at the Cambridge Street factory; in Rochdale at Dunlop’s cotton mills; in Coventry at rim and wheel works, Foleshill; in Scotland at Thornliebank and Dunfermline; in Eire at the Cork factory; and at as many Dunlop factories as possess facilities. It is also’, the article noted, ‘going to the Dunlop factories in France and Germany, and overseas to the factories in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and USA’ (Rubber Journal, 21 May 1955, 651). In addition the film was made available to technical and other colleges, while Film User suggested that it could also be used in schools to teach geography (Film User, July 1955, 347).

As a film intended directly for workers throughout the world, Dunlop in Malaya prioritised the welfare work and progressive development programmes of the company. Publicity materials similarly highlighted these aspects, explaining that the ‘estates are linked by 400 miles of road owned and maintained by the company’, include six hospitals for 5,000 in-patients and 26,000 out-patients a year, and care for the 850 babies born on the estates each year. As well as shops and crèches, ‘the company maintains cinemas, playing fields, swimming baths and clubs’ (Rubber Journal, 21 May 1955, 651).

The film was produced by Ronald H. Riley in association with the Film Producers’ Guild, the consortium of which Riley’s firm R.H.R. Productions was a member, although it was photographed by the Malayan Film Unit. It was not the first time that Riley had produced a film on the rubber industry in Malaya. In June 1949, while managing director of Verity Films, he had visited Malaya to supervise the production of This is Rubber. The film was produced for the British Rubber Development Board, and shot by the Malayan Film Unit (Straits Times, 1 May 1949, 7). Footage from Dunlop in Malaya likely featured in the 1955 MFU picture, Rubber from Malaya, produced in English, Malaya, Mandarin and Tamil. Rubber from Malaya showed how ‘production of rubber continues in spite of the Emergency’, focussing more on the production processes ‘from collecting latex to the manufacture of sheets ready for export’, and won an award at the South East Asia film festival in 1955 (Catalogue of Documentary Films in the Federal Film Library, 1959, 52, 99).



As a sponsored documentary intended for company workers, Dunlop in Malaya serves primarily to highlight the welfare of its workers within Malaya. This is undoubtedly a trope within post-war sponsored documentaries (e.g. Achievement in Africa, 1960) with companies responding to international criticisms of colonial exploitation by promoting their development and welfare programmes, though similar welfare themes are also evident in non-colonial industrial films. From the outset, the commentator explains that Dunlop ‘assumes the responsibility for the welfare and employment of 20,000 people of widely differing nationalities, traditions and creeds’, as the film shows the modern housing, medical facilities, schooling, and recreational activities provided by the company. Although the film does offer some detailed footage of the industrial process, showing the clearing, ‘bud grafting’, tapping, and collection and transport of latex, this footage appears later within the film and again serves, in part, to highlight the increased responsibilities (and technological advancements) provided for the local workers under European guidance.

The film relates the industries and activities directly to Britain. The commentary opens by describing this as a story ‘of British achievement’ and reiterates in the final lines that ‘this service is a British achievement to which they [the Dunlop Malayan estates] can be justly proud’. In appealing to a British audience, the film uses British points of reference – the 13 rubber estates are ‘the size of the county of London or one and a half times the size of the municipality of Birmingham’ – and, in concluding with footage of ships sailing overseas, shows the economic benefits of the industry to this audience. It presents a model of post-war imperialism, of social development and technological ‘progress’, administered through business. In this respect it can be connected to a large number of industrial films within the colonial archive, which promote ideals of corporate welfare together with policies of colonial ‘development’.

While showing some skilled local workers (for example, carrying out laboratory tests), the film still endorses a traditional hierarchical structure, which acknowledges the primacy of the British worker: ‘European technicians and administrators are the hard core, around which is fuelled a team made up of native Malayans, Indians and Chinese who have been settled in the country for generations’. Ultimately the film celebrates the work of the British administrators and, in the traditions of industrial filmmaking, aligns heroism and stoicism with company loyalty. ‘To men such as these there is only one consideration’, the commentator observes, ‘the job of improving the yield and quality of the plantations which will always be their first concern’.

For colonial historians, the film is perhaps of most interest for its coverage of the Malayan Emergency. Unmentioned throughout the first half of the film, later sequences show guards firing shots on the estates, and carrying out security checks. The audience is offered no political or social context to the Emergency, and these sequences instead once more illustrate the company’s welfare work and its modern technological advances. ‘The company has installed the latest high frequency radio telephone network and maintained a fleet of 70 armoured cars’, the commentator explains, before adding that ‘the company has spent over half a million pounds on security measures for the personnel on the estate’. These security measures were essential in protecting the economic interests of the company (for example, guarding the plantations), but again the film relates these measures directly to the workers. Furthermore, despite the widely acknowledged Communist support among many rural Chinese rubber tappers, the film dismisses any suggestion that company workers may have been willingly involved with the insurrection. The security checks, we are told, are implemented ‘to control those who may be terrorised into supplying the bandits with food and other necessities’. It is, finally, labour, and the production of profit, that can effectively unify the diverse workforce (‘A whole vivid, varied, vigorous, community united by a common purpose’). The film indulges in a fantasy of ethnic harmony here, enforced by extracting surplus value from colonial lands and people.

Tom Rice (February 2010)


Works Cited

Malayan Film Unit, Catalogue of Documentary Films in the Federal Film Library (Kuala Lumpur: Department of Information, Federation of Malaya, 1959).

‘Dunlop in Malaya’, Film User, July 1955, 347.

‘Documentary on Rubber’, The Straits Times, 1 May 1949, 7.

‘New Dunlop Film on Plantation Life’, Rubber Developments, 1955, 81.

‘Dunlop in Malaya’, Rubber Journal, 21 May 1955, 651. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
20 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
1819 ft

Production Credits

RILEY, Ronald H.
BOND, Julian
Sound Recording
Dunlop Rubber Company
BARDEN, Michael
Malayan Film Unit
Production Company
Film Producers Guild
Production Company
R.H.R. Productions
Script Supervisor
BOND, Julian
Sound Supervisor







Production Organisations