Producer to recce Sarawak for the shooting of epic film ‘White Rajah’


Rob Allyn

Sir James Brooke (1847) by Francis Grant

KUCHING: American film producer Rob Allyn, who has a string of epics and international box office attractions to his name, is in Kuching this week to evaluate Sarawak as a location for a major Hollywood feature film on the ‘White Rajah’.

Rob is travelling with Jason Brooke, grandson of Rajah Muda Anthony Brooke, according to a press release from Sarawak Tourism Federation yesterday.

With global stars and an estimated USD$15 million budget, the film is scheduled for shooting in mid-late 2014. Other options for the shoot are Singapore/Batam Island, Indonesia, Thailand, Fiji and Australia.

Rob and Margate House Films are working in partnership with the Brooke Trust, which as the film’s technical advisor, will advice on historical content, building design and watercraft to be reconstructed for the film.

Margate House Films and the Brooke Trust envision building a full scale working replica of the Royalist, the schooner on which James Brooke sailed to Sarawak in the late 1830s, for filming his journey and pirate battles. The vessel would later remain in Kuching as a heritage attraction and living museum exhibit.

At Brooke’s encouragement, Margate House Films chairman Rob and his son associate producer Jake will meet Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Datuk Ik Pahon and other officials and business leaders while in Kuching.

The trip is in response to Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari’s recent announcement on the ministry’s plan to entice foreign filmmakers to Sarawak.

Brooke and tourism officials will bring the Allyns to see the rivers, beaches, jungles, cultural and historical sites of Sarawak to convince Margate House Films to work with the support of the ministry to shoot this epic film in Sarawak.

‘White Rajah’ could be a boon to the tourism industry here with Hollywood stars, hundreds of local and foreign crew, thousands of extras and the opportunity for substantial employment, film training and worldwide visibility. It would be the biggest budget film ever made in Sarawak.

“We appreciate the support of the Brookes and the warm welcome of the Tourism Ministry and leaders of Sarawak,” Rob said in a press release.

“The saga of James Brooke falling in love with the beauty, wildlife, peoples and cultures of Sarawak is a great untold saga on film. With the technical advice of the Brooke Trust and assistance from the Tourism Ministry and government of Sarawak and the Federation of Malaysia, we plan to make an action-packed, romantic, swashbuckling adventure in the tradition of big screen epics like ‘Braveheart’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Last of the Mohicans’.”

“The Brooke Trust is pleased with the overall creative approach, attention to authenticity, sensitivity to the culture and history of Sarawak, quality of the script and enthusiasm for the first Rajah Brooke’s story that Rob and Margate House Films have demonstrated,” Brooke said.

“We are here in the hope that the film can be shot on location here. A film like ‘White Rajah’ would be a coup for the tourism, economy, visibility and image of Sarawak.”

Rob has toured the new Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor and facilities in Australia, Singapore and Batam Island, Indonesia and Thailand.

He said: “There are gorgeous beaches, jungles, rivers, wildlife, tourism amenities and state-of-the-art film studios throughout the region, but to shoot all or part of this film in the country where the story really took place is a filmmaker’s dream.

“So we came here at the invitation of the Brooke family and the government to walk in the Rajah’s footsteps, and explore whether it is feasible to shoot a film this big here in Sarawak.”