Appeal for public screenings of exile film rejected

THE Films Appeal Committee, an independent panel, has turned down film-maker Tan Pin Pin's appeal to let her documentary To Singapore, With Love be screened in public in Singapore.

It said the film gives a one-sided account that could lead people who are not in the know to see the acts of violence and subversion as justified for achieving political ends in Singapore.

For this reason, the film is a threat to the country's national security, the committee's chairman Tan Boon Huat said yesterday when it upheld the film's "Not Allowed for All Ratings" (NAR) classification.

The rating from the Media Development Authority (MDA) bars the film from public screening and distribution in Singapore. The committee's decision, however, was not unanimous.

Nine of the 12 members present voted to maintain the NAR decision while three voted for a Restricted 21 (R21) rating, which is for an adult audience.

The film features nine Singaporean political exiles giving their take on why they fled the country, their lives now and their feelings towards Singapore.

Mr Tan said the committee took into account Ms Tan's explanation of the film, as well as the views of the MDA and relevant government agencies. The panel also considered the film classification guidelines which state "films deemed to undermine public order, national security and/or stability will be disallowed for all ratings". In his statement, Mr Tan noted that the film was of commendable artistic standards.

But, he said, the panel found it "to be a one-sided account with minimal attempts to provide a balanced mix of views". He added: "As real people and events were featured in the film, the FAC felt that viewers who watch it without sufficient knowledge and understanding of the historical context would take the views presented as truth.

"This would mean acts of violence and subversion would appear justified to the uninitiated.

"Therefore, the FAC agreed that the film would pose a serious risk to Singapore's national security by condoning the use of violence and subversion as a means to achieve political ends in Singapore."

Ms Tan had appealed to the FAC in September.

Yesterday, Mr Tan said she told the panel her film was intended to relate the "personal stories and emotions of people who have been away from Singapore for an extended length of time".

Ms Tan said she let the exiles speak from their own perspective and tried to provide balance to their views by using inter-titles and newspaper clippings. She acknowledged that she had relied on newspaper reports and did not verify the information with the authorities, Mr Tan added.

Last night, a disappointed Ms Tan said in a Facebook post that she was exploring her options, including private screenings, which the NAR rating allows.

She added: "I believe Singaporeans are mature enough to appreciate that (the exiles' perspective) is one of many views."

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, in a Facebook post, noted that the film glosses over the fact that the communist insurrection was violent and conducted by an illegal organisation.

"Allowing it to be screened publicly would effectively mean condoning the use of subversion in Singapore.

"More importantly, it will be a great injustice and dishonour to those who bravely stood up to the communists in a fight to secure a democratic, non-communist Singapore," he said.

The last time an MDA decision was overturned was last year, when Ken Kwek's film Sex.Violence.FamilyValues received an NAR rating. After he made an appeal, the film was given an R21 rating and screened in cinemas with edits.

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