The film about political exiles has been classified as Not Allowed for All Ratings, on the grounds that it undermines ‘national security’
By LAURA ELIZABETH PHILOMIN, of today
SINGAPORE – To Singapore, With Love, a film about political exiles directed by local director Tan Pin Pin, has been barred from distribution or exhibition in Singapore.
The Media Development Authority (MDA) has classified the film as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR) where films are not allowed for exhibition or distribution.
“MDA has assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals,” the MDA said in a statement released today (Sept 10).
Ms Tan was recently named best director in the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary section at the 10th Dubai International Film Festival last year for this same film.
According to the MDA, this is the first time in recent years that a film has been classified as NAR. The last film to be classified as such was Ken Kwek’s Sex.Violence.FamilyValues in 2012 which had its rating appealed to R21 with edits.
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post that he agrees with and supports the MDA’s assessment.
“The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they left Singapore and claimed that they were unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore,” he said. “It is not surprising that ex-CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) members and sympathisers wish now to give their own accounts of historical episodes that they were involved in. But individuals who have chosen to leave and remain outside Singapore, and refused to account for their past actions, should not enjoy a public platform to purvey distorted and untruthful accounts to mislead the public, absolve themselves or deny their past actions.”
Ms Tan said she was “very disappointed by the MDA decision – for myself, and also what it means for Singapore”. She said she hopes to be able to show it in Singapore one day, and “may re-submit for a rating in the future”.
She added: “The focus is on their everyday lives. These exiles all have different ideological positions and are of different ages; some are communists, others are activists from the Christian Left, yet others are socialist politicians or former student activists. But their feelings for Singapore is intense and heartfelt, albeit sometimes ambivalent, even after so long away. Those feelings (more than the circumstances of their exile, or even the historical “truth” that led to such exile) are what my film predominantly focuses on, because I feel that many viewers might relate to those feelings.”
In a statement this evening, about 40 members of Singapore’s film-making and arts community expressed their “deep disappointment” at the MDA’s decision, and urged the MDA to reconsider.
“The MDA claims that the subjects in Ms Tan’s film gave ‘distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore and remain outside Singapore’. We would like to suggest that rather than banning the documentary, authorities release their version of the events in question, so that viewers can make up their own minds. Indeed, we note that the MDA has already published a detailed press release stating their official account,” they said, noting that that the film has “received high praise from filmmakers, critics and festival programmers”.
The signatories included well-known film-makers Anthony Chen, Royston Tan, Martyn See, and arts practitioners such as Janice Koh, Ivan Heng and T Sasitharan.