Wednesday, March 23, 2005

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

Tuesday March 22, 11:31 AM

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

(AP) 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.

6 comments:

soci said...

Singapore film-maker pulls political movie
Staff and agencies
Tuesday March 22, 2005

A film-maker has withdrawn his documentary about Singapore's leading opposition figure from the city-state's annual film festival, after the government warned him its political content could land him in jail.

Martyn See's short film focuses on Chee Soon Juan, a frequent government critic who was ordered to pay S$500,000 (£160,875) to Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and former leader Goh Chok Tong for defamation during the 2001 elections.

See decided to pull his movie from the Singapore international film festival after the country's censorship board warned him he could be jailed for up to two years or fined if his 26-minute film was screened.

Singapore's the Straits Times reports that the board had also advised festival organisers 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.

Despite its strictly controlled media, Singapore has been seeking to promote itself as a centre of Asian arts, with the international film festival one of its cultural highlights. Still, Singapore regularly bans movies, on the grounds that it needs to maintain ethnic and religious harmony in the south-east Asian country of four million.
From the Guardian Newspaper

http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,12589,1443399,00.html#article_continue

Anonymous said...

The report below was published in The Straits Times, March 22, 2005

Documentary on Chee Soon Juan withdrawn from film fest

by
ONG SOR FERN
film correspondent

A FIRST-TIME Singapore film-maker has been told to withdraw his documentary about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan from the Singapore International Film Festival (Siff).

The Board of Film Censors (BFC) told the festival organisers that the film was objectionable under the Films Act of 1998.

The Films Act bars the making and distribution of films that "contain wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter''.

Film-maker Martyn See, in his 30s, told The Straits Times yesterday that his effort was "a documentation of Chee Soon Juan's acts of civil disobedience''.

Dr Chee, the Singapore Democratic Party's secretary-general, has been in the news most recently for failing to pay $500,000 in damages to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, for defaming them during the 2001 general election campaign.

Mr See, a freelance film editor, spent two years making his 26-minute short film.

Asked if he was a member of Dr Chee's party, he said he was not.

He said he had no affiliation with any party but made the film because he was "just curious''.

"I'd like to know what motivates Dr Chee to keep going despite the odds,'' he added.

The film was one of more than 70 entries to the Siff's Singapore Shorts competition and was not shortlisted as a finalist.

It is a festival tradition to screen all the short film submissions. However, Siff director Philip Cheah was told by BFC officials on March 11 that Mr See's film was objectionable under the Films Act.

Contacted yesterday, the BFC spokesman said: "The documentary was deemed a Party Political Film as defined by the Films Act. The Siff was informed of this and they withdrew the
film.''

Mr See received an e-mail from Siff director Lesley Ho on March 16, informing him of BFC's advice to withdraw the film.

He withdrew the film after being told of the possible penalties a $100,000 fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Ms Ho told The Straits Times: "As a festival, we cannot make these decisions on behalf of the film-makers.

"We cannot censor films. It's up to the film-makers to withdraw the films.''

Mr See has since gone online to describe his disappointment.

This is not the first time a made-in-Singapore film has been withdrawn from the 18-year-old Siff under the Films Act.

In 2001, a documentary on veteran opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam was also pulled out.

On other occasions, local and foreign films were withdrawn after the board wanted cuts made. The festival has a strict no-censorship policy.

Last year, Singapore film-maker Sam Loh's directorial debut, Outsiders, and a short film by Singapore artist Zai Kuning entitled Even Dogs Have Choices were pulled after the
board asked for edits.

Anonymous said...

Will Singaporeans ever have a chance to see this film?

How to make young Singaporeans interested in politics if there are such media blocks.

Anonymous said...

Singapore PM makes 6 times that of US President. Long ago his father started as newest PM by declaring he didn't need any salary as his wife's law firm is there to help him. He is a lawyer and great politician. PM is a mathematician and computer science grad. US population is 60 times that of Singapore. So per capita, PM makes 360 times that of US President. Per day PM makes $6898; $286 ph; on a 2000 hr per year this is $1250 ph or $21 per min. This is two times more than OJ Simpson's lawyer made.
Anon

Anonymous said...

As concern GIC between China and Singapore: China has a popn 1.3 billions and Sin has 5 millions.
China's GIC is at 1.3 trillion us dollars; and Sin at 130 billion us dollars. So it looks like China/Sin GIC ratio is only 10X; so what's the problem? Only when you take per capita it becomes obvious! China GIC per capita: $1000; Sin GIC per capita: 26000! China has only 3.85% that of Sin GIC per capita! Don't forget present PM Lee SL is firstly a mathematician and secondly a computer buff!
Anon

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