Sunday, April 22, 2007

'Zahari's 17 Years' now online

It has to happen when a film gets banned after more than a year in circulation.

The full 49 minutes of 'Zahari's 17 Years' is now available for viewing on Google Video. (Updated to youtube) I hereby declare that it wasn't uploaded by me as I've surrendered my remaining master copy to the censors on 11 April. Prime suspects should include festival organisers, film buffs, academics, historians, journalists, ex-detainees, all and sundry who may have seen the film or even possessed copies of it at one time or another.

Of course I can't direct you to the link as I will then be culpable of distributing a prohibited film which does carry a jail term. It first appeared in one of the 'Local Voices' blogs on the right column of this page.

Meanwhile you can watch this ITN news clip of the ban which features a rare appearance by former student leader Tan Wah Piow, a political exile residing in UK.


akikonomu said...

I note that the Tan Wah Piao video, which you're distributing by way of linking the content in this blog post, contains excerpts of your banned film.

You are correct in saying that linking to the google video of Zahari's 17 would be a contravention of the Films Act. Let me point out that linking to a video (such as this interview) that plays any part or portion of the banned movie would be a contravention as well.

Unknown said...

Hi martyn and Akikonomu,

I am hoping that someone can direct me to the provision in the law that prohibits html linking to material that contravenes the law.

Is html explicitly refered to?

Unknown said...

the best I can find is this

"electronic transmission" includes facsimile transmission, electronic mail or other similar kinds of communication but excludes broadcasting

its all rather vague.

is a html or http/url address 'electronic transmission'?

What exactly is being transmitted?

akikonomu said...

Hi soci, long time no see! Do hope you're doing fine now.

It's in the (very broadly drawn) definitions of the Films Act.

Section 2.

"electronic transmission" includes facsimile transmission, electronic mail or other similar kinds of communication but excludes broadcasting;

“exhibition” includes the production of any music, speech, noise, or other sound which accompanies the projection of a film and “exhibit” shall be construed accordingly;

"film" means — (etc)
and includes any part of a film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film;

This means that... by embedding the ITV youtube video in this post, Martin can be seen as exhibiting Zahari's 17, since the ITV video has very short excerpts of it.

akikonomu said...

Soci, the point this is NOT a html link. This is direct embedding of the video in the blog.

The video contains excerpts of Zahari's 17.

Unknown said...

I see. so if someone in Singapore embeds it then it is a case of exhibiting.

SO a simple html link should be safe?

As you said its all very 'broadly drawn'.

So maybe Martyn should remove the More4 video. Give as little potential for being dragged through the courts as possible.

MIng said...

The following are local reports posted here for reference

The Straits Times report.

April 11, 2007
Film about ex-political detainee is banned

By Boon Chan

A FILM about former political detainee Said Zahari will be banned as it is deemed against the public interest, said the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts yesterday.

The film, Zahari's 17 Years, which was directed, shot and edited by Martyn See, gives a 'distorted and misleading portrayal' of Mr Said's arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act in 1963, the ministry said in a statement.

It is 'an attempt to exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist united front activities against the interests of Singapore'.

It added: 'The Government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past, to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the Government. This could undermine public confidence in the Government.'

The 50-minute movie consists largely of an interview done in late 2005 with Mr Said, where he talks about his experiences in detention.

This is the first film to be banned under section 35(1) of the Films Act, where the minister may order a ban if he feels the work is contrary to public interest.

The ban takes effect tomorrow. Anyone who possesses or distributes the film can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to two years or both.

Mr Said, 79, the former president of opposition party Parti Rakyat Singapura, was arrested in Operation Cold Store in 1963. He was released in 1979 and he later moved to Kuala Lumpur. His 2001 memoirs, Dark Clouds At Dawn, is available in stores here.

The ban came after the film was submitted to the Board of Film Censors for classification for general release in cinemas.

Last year, Zahari's 17 Years was given a Parental Guidance (PG) rating by the board when it was submitted for two film festival screenings, but the film was not shown in the end.

The first was the Singapore International Film Festival in March. Festival officials did not want to comment on this yesterday as they had just moved to another office and did not have access to last year's records.

It was also given a PG rating when it was submitted for the Asian Film Symposium organised by The Substation in September.

Ms Audrey Wong, The Substation's artistic co-director, said the arts centre was advised by the Media Development Authority that there might be issues given the political content of the film. It decided not to screen it given its unclear status.

Mr See said he was told of the ban yesterday and he has to submit all copies of the film to the Board of Film Censors by 5.30pm today.

His previous documentary, Singapore Rebel, was on the activities of Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan.

It was banned under Section 33 of the Films Act which prohibits the making and distribution of party political films.

He got off with a stern warning from the police in August last year for this.


Today's report
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Film on ex-detainee banned
It may undermine public's confidence in Govt: Mica

Loh Chee Kong

A FILM about a former journalist detained under the Internal Security Act has been deemed "against public interest" and banned by the Government.
Shot, directed and edited by local film-maker Martyn See, the 50-minute interview-based film, Zahari's 17 years, centres around the February 1963 arrest and subsequent detention of Mr Said Zahari, a former editor of the Malay-language newspaper Utusan Melayu and president of Parti Rakyat Singapura. Mr Said, then 34, was arrested during Operation Cold Store — a Government security operation against subversive activities — and released in August 1979.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica) said the film gives "a distorted and misleading portrayal" of Mr Said's arrest and detention and was "an attempt (by Mr Said) to exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist united front activities against the interest of Singapore".
The ministry said Mr See had submitted the film to the Board of Film Censors for classification for screening.
Explaining its decision to use, for the first time, section 35 (1) of the Films Act, Mica added: "The Government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past, to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the Government. This could undermine public confidence in the Government."
Section 35 (1) allows the Mica Minister to prohibit the possession or distribution of any film contrary to public interest. With effect from tomorrow, anyone who possesses or distributes the film could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for a maximum of two years, or both.
When contacted, Mr See, 38, said he found the decision "very strange".
He said: "I had wanted to screen the film here, but I haven't decided when and where yet ... I need to find out on what basis they are banning it."
This is the second time in as many years that a film which Mr See had directed has run afoul of the Films Act, which prohibits films with political themes. Last year, after 15 months of investigation, the police gave him a "stern warning" over his documentary about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, which was banned under a different section of the Films Act.
Last year, Zahari's 17 years was submitted for the Singapore International Film Festival. At that time, the Board of Film Censors passed the film with a PG rating — traditionally, films at the festival attract a smaller audience than at a general release. But despite the rating, the festival organisers decided not to screen the movie. It has, however, been shown at film festivals in Malaysia and Toronto.
"(The Board of Film Censors) has to explain why they had passed it under "PG" in the first place. If I'm not satisfied with the explanation, I will have to put it up on YouTube," Mr See said.


An unpublished letter sent to the local press which I received via email from "Sam".

Dear Editor,

I refer to the recent news about the banning of Martyn
See's documentary on Said Zahari.

Can't the authorities be more sensible and still make
the film accessible to the public? After all, the film
does not have morally violating nor sexually explicit
content; it is only potentially politically
contentious and more so from the point of view of the

I would like to plead with the authorities to allow
the film to be archived for academic purposes. To
totally ban and remove material about Singapore's
past, even though it may be deemed to be false, or
made by a film-maker who happens to make another film
about Chee Soon Juan, is an act of limiting the
creative expression and the stifling of diverse

The ban is an act of social engineering, depriving
people of a cultural and political artifact. Access to
the film can instead be made restricted, because there
are a section of the public who are literate enough to
appreciate and critique the content of the film.

I urge MICA to reconsider.


Thank you for writing to us. We do appreciate your
making the effort.

We receive up to 70 letters each day. Limited space
means we can publish only about a dozen every weekday.

This means having to make often-difficult editorial
judgments on which letters to publish.

We regret we are unable to publish your letter.

Yours sincerely

Ms Noor Aiza
for Forum Editor
The Straits Times

akikonomu said...

Actually, what might be even safer than linking... is to provide a transcript of the movie.

For the life of me, I can't find any provision in the Films Act that bans the transcript of a movie?!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like akikonomu is another PAP bootlicker / fellow conspirator probably linked to the ISA or some other shady organizations.

Let me say that if Martyn See had made a movie on LKY, Goh Chok Tong or any other PAP ministers praising them to the skies, the movie would be rated G and played in public cinemas.

Remember the documentary by Channel News Asia on LKY?

Tell us without blinking your eyes why that is allowed.

akikonomu said...

Hi anonymous, perhaps you'd like to read my blog and point out even a single article where I've licked whiteshirt boots. Perhaps you'd also like to ask Martyn See how I've blogged about the legality of the Films Act last year when his other film was banned?

Anonymous proves that anti-establishment trolls are a bigger threat to the blogosphere than whiteshirt trolls.