14 May 2005

Bhavani said:politically motivated movies 'undesirable'

Singapore says politically motivated movies 'undesirable'

SINGAPORE (AP) - The Singapore government said Saturday politically motivated films were "an undesirable medium'' to debate issues, as a documentary filmmaker faces possible charges over a movie about an opposition politician.

Martyn See is under investigation for "Singapore Rebel,''
[Click the image to view Singapore Rebel. The movie appears to have been taken off.]

a 26-minute movie about Chee Soon Juan, a frequent critic of the government. Police said See may have violated the Films Act for knowingly distributing or exhibiting a "party political film.''

He could be fined up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (US$60,606; euro46,200) or imprisoned as long as two years if he's tried and convicted.

"Party political films are disallowed because they are an undesirable medium for political debate in Singapore,'' the Ministry of Information's communications director K. Bhavani said in an open letter published in the local Straits Times newspaper Saturday.

"They can present political issues in a sensational manner, evoking emotional rather than rational reactions,'' Bhavani said. [Singaporeans are denied emotions?] "There remains ample opportunity for political parties and their supporters to express their opinions.'' [Where?]

Bhavani's letter was an apparent reaction to See's yet-unscreened movie, and a letter from a group of Singapore filmmakers who castigated the country's laws, which appear to ban any movie criticizing government policy.

See made his maiden film independently and said he wanted to "chronicle the civil disobedience acts of Chee Soon Juan.''

Chee currently faces bankruptcy after he was ordered to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$303,000; euro236,275) to Singapore's former prime ministers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, for defaming them during an election campaign in 2001.

"Singapore Rebel" was earlier yanked from the Singapore International Film Festival _ one of the country's showcase events to promote itself as an arts hub.

But See said his movie will be screened at other venues later this month _ the New Zealand Human Rights Film Festival and the Amnesty International Film Festival in Hollywood.

Singapore, a wealthy Southeast Asian city-state, is widely criticized for its tight controls on political activity and the media.-AP

Undesireable unless the Peoples Action Party desires it.

Read on:

Section 40 of the Films Act says:

"This Act shall not apply to any film sponsored by the Government."

That is, any film sponsored by the Singapore government is perfectly fine, even if it contains obscene material or explicit political content. And as if that wasn't enough, they also put this in the Act:

"The Minister may, subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, exempt any person or class of persons or any film or class of films from all or any of the provisions of this Act."

So any film can be exempted if the Minister likes the film. In other words, even if a film is bursting with political messages, the Minister can still allow the film to be imported, sold, distributed and exhibited - no problems whatsoever - as long as the Minister likes those political messages.

More details regarding the Films Act.


Ted said...

Maybe it's time to start a SAVE MARTYN SEET FUND.

Heh but then again, Mr Loy's comments:

"4. If someone wants to change Singapore in some big and obvious way--i.e., at the level of policy--he's better off taking MM's advice. Form a party, contest the GE, i.e., become a partisan. The rest of us ("us" because it includes "me") should be aware that armchair criticism can only go so far in making any real impact. And I think most bloggers understand this quite well. We remain armchair critics not because we have illusions about what we can achieve or the nature of power, but because we have different ambitions."

from http://rebrabmoor.blogspot.com/2005/05/where-is-2cents-worth.html#comments

pretty much says it all.

Anonymous said...

People: 'So what are the OB markers?'
Govt: 'We'll tell you after you cross them.'

People: 'So what's the defamatory statement?'
A*Star: 'Telling you would mean repeating them so we won't.'

People: 'So can we see the film to find out what's so political about it?'
Govt: 'No, that would be tantamount to violating the Films Act'

What's next?

Anonymous said...

In a democracy, you decide what movies you watch. In totalitarian Singapore, government decides for you.

wandie said...

Dear Anonymous the 3rd, That's so slashdotty!