"You are not going to tell us how to run our country"
- MM Lee Kuan Yew warning foreign journalists not to meddle in Singapore
"Since we want the story to be told in an independent and impartial manner, and told in a way that would be of interest to viewers outside Singapore, I thought it would be better that it is done by a non-Singaporean company."
- Tommy Koh, chairman of National Heritage Board, on his preference for foreigners to produce a film on Singapore's history, Straits Times, Nov 12 2005
The Singapore Government routinely tells foreigners not to "meddle" in our affairs but when it comes to producing a three-hour film on our history, it prefers to engage foreigners. Apparently, according to Tommy Koh, local producers cannot be entrusted to tell the story of Singapore in an independent and impartial manner. A foreign company can do the job better. You go figure.
Discovery Channel is set to roll out a three hour documentary next month entitled "History of Singapore'. Preview audiences interviewed by the Straits Times indicated that they are confident that the film will present a "fair and balanced" account. ST also reported that political dissidents such as JB Jeyaratnam, former unionist Fong Swee Suan and the late Lim Chin Siong are featured in the film.
However, the paper failed to mention that the documentary is sponsored by Singapore Airlines and Neptune Orient Lines, and supported by the National Heritage Board. This means that it is considered a Government-sponsored film and is thereby exempted from being deemed a 'party political film' - of which I am still under police investigation for the making of 'Singapore Rebel.'
Legally, "History of Singapore' can be as biased and partisan as the producers (and financers) would like it to be without violating the law. Clever.
The idea for the documentary was mooted by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 2003 and is produced by British-based Lion Television which reportedly had "free rein" in the production.
While Singapore has laws to fine and imprison their film-makers for making 'political' films, North Korea adopts a more hard-nosed approach in reining in renegade film-makers...
Saturday November 12, 10:17 PM
on history of Singapore to air next month
SINGAPORE : "The
History of Singapore" - as the landmark multi-million-dollar documentary is
called - will air on Discovery Channel next month.
Footages never seen before and interviews with key figures like Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew - all filmed on high-definition - is featured in the three-hour special.
The documentary will be telecast on Channel NewsAsia and other MediaCorp channels
The Japanese surrendered to the British at the end of World War Two in a room in City Hall.
And in 1965, Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was also sworn in there at the City Hall chamber.
So it was a fitting venue to launch the new documentary series.
From Singapore's beginnings as a mangrove swamp to the Asian economic metropolis it is today, the history of Singapore over the past two centuries is showcased to viewers in a three-hour special.
Besides rare historical footage such as the first known map of Singapore after Raffles landed, the documentary also has real-life re-enactments.
There will also be interviews with key historical figures recounting turning points in Singapore's past.
So how different is this version of history compared to previous ones?
Professor Tommy Koh, chairman of the National Heritage Board said:
"This is not a Singapore documentary, it is a documentary about Singapore but made by an international company. We hope the final product will be fair and balanced, and tells our story in an engaging and convincing way."
"It does capture quite well, in three hours, the long and complex history of Singapore. Of course if you do a documentary and you want to make compelling TV, you have to take certain creative decisions but I have to say the story is quite accurate," said Professor Tan Tai Yong, a historian at the National University of Singapore.
Discovery's team also faced challenges when they were filming the series.
Said James Gibbons of Discovery Asia: "How do you take 200 years and condense it? An objective was to tell the story of Singapore - which is one of the four Asian tigers. The story we believe is emblematic of many of the transformations that have taken place in Asia over 100 years. It's a fascinating story for our audience in the region and perhaps beyond."
As a special tribute to mark Singapore's 40th birthday, the three-part series will reach more than 100 million households in 23 countries, telling the history of Singapore to the local and international audience.
The documentary is sponsored by Singapore Airlines and Neptune Orient Lines, and supported by the National Heritage Board.
- CNA /ls
They execute film-makers in this country
"Do you really believe that we are equal to North Korea ? Oh, come on. We are not that daft. We know what is in our interest and we intend to preserve our interests and what we have is working. You are not going to tell us how to run our country"
- MM Lee Kuan Yew speaking to foreign journalists on Singapore's low ranking press freedom
"We consider that the United Nations has no right to discuss the Korean question nor has it any right to meddle in the domestic affairs of our country. The Korean question should not be discussed by foreigners in New York of Washington, it should be discussed in Pyongyang or Seoul by the Koreans themselves."
- Kim Il Sung, father of current North Korea President Kim Jong Il
Here's another documentary you should catch. Click here for CNN schedules.
Undercover in the Secret State
In Undercover in the Secret State, Dispatches exposes the true face of North Korea its strict regime has strived to keep hidden. Although rumours abound of forced labour camps and systematic human rights abuses, Asia's last Stalinist state and one of the world's emerging nuclear powers, remains something of an enigma.
In this film, award-winning filmmaker Kim Jung Eun (Shadows and Whispers: The Struggle of North Korean Refugees) lays bare the cruel realities of daily life, presenting powerful undercover footage and interviews with defectors fleeing the regime.
Working as secret cameramen, the dissidents Jung Eun meets film public executions and concentration camps to expose the subjugated existence of a nation gripped by the cult of its reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il. The chilling footage smuggled to the outside world, hand by hand, along an underground network, makes difficult viewing.
Prisoners whose only crime was to help people escape the country are submitted to the firing squad under the gaze of men, women and school children. Elsewhere detainees in a political prison camp are incarcerated with three generations of their family for criticising the regime.
In a bid to bring down the one-party dictatorship from within, the fledgling dissident movement produces publicity which criticises the dictatorship - a crime punishable by death.
They also import illicit American and South Korean soap operas which are proving an effective means of promoting unease. The soaps depict a comfortable standard of life in South Korea which contradict the state-controlled media reports and sit in stark contrast to the hand to mouth existence north of the border.
Undercover in the Secret State is a powerful film which presents an uncensored version of North Korea, a country blighted by acute food shortages and a rigid regime which violates human rights. But it also offers hope of a change powered by new technology.
Below is excerpt of article by Felix Soh published in the Straits Times Nov 3, 2005
Shocking images of life in North Korea
Secretly filmed tapes show public executions, poverty and anti-govt graffiti
North Korean dissidents are using mobile phones, digital cameras and video recording devices to leak chilling, never-before-seen images of life inside the reclusive country, including public executions by firing squads.
A network of secret cameramen is employing technology as the latest weapon to expose the truth about harsh living conditions in North Korea and to fuel growing dissent against the repressive Stalinist regime of strongman Kim Jong Il.
If they are caught filming, they face prison or death.
Among the most shocking footage ever to have come out of North Korea are these:
- Instant trials followed by public executions, with children among those witnessing the atrocities. (My note : public executions is an "atrocity"; executions done behind closed doors in Changi Prison is not?)
- Rare defacing of posters of Kim Jong Il with anti-government graffiti such as "Bring down Kim Jong Il, he has killed everyone who stood for democracy".
In one of the executions shown in the documentary, people are ordered to gather in a dusty field.
A public official tells the crowd that those who go against their country will be executed. Minutes later, a man is led out and tied to a pole. He is blindfolded. Three policemen step forward and raise their rifles.
The official shouts: "Forward. Right. Shoot, shoot, shoot."
The shots ring out. The man slumps against the ropes that bind him to the pole.
His crime: trying to make contact with the outside world.
North Korea is a hermit-like state whose people's lives, activities and movements are tightly controlled and restricted.
The Pyongyang regime describes the country as paradise, but regugees and dissidents speak of repression, famine, starvation, prison and torture. Images of the latter are now being smuggled out of the country.
CNN's Undercover In The Secret State will be telecast in Singapore,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan at 7pm on Thursday, with replays on subesequent days.