23 Mar 2005

Report: Film about Singapore opposition leader pulled after director warned he could be jailed

A documentary filmmaker withdrew his movie about Singapore's leading opposition figure from the city-state's annual film festival after the government warned the director that he could be jailed over its political content, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Martyn See's short film focuses on Chee Soon Juan, a frequent government critic who was ordered to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars to modern Singapore's founder, Lee Kuan Yew, and former leader Goh Chok Tong for defaming them during the 2001 elections.

However, See decided to pull his movie from the Singapore International Film Festival after the Board of Film Censors said he could be jailed for up to two years or fined S$100,000 (US$61,300; €46,400) if his 26-minute film was screened, the Straits Times reported.

The board had also advised festival organizers to remove See's documentary because it was a "party political film." Under Singaporean law, local films that "contain wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter" are banned, the paper added.

See and festival organizers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Strictly controlled Singapore has been seeking to promote itself as an Asian arts center, with the film festival as one of the city-state's cultural highlights.

Still, Singapore regularly bans movies, saying it needs to maintain ethnic and religious harmony in the Southeast Asian country of 4 million. Last year, censors blocked three films from the festival for scenes it deemed were too sexually explicit or were advocating violence.

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