A group of Singaporean filmmakers including Anthony Chen, Boo Junfeng, Royston Tan and Kelvin Tong has issued a statement protesting the local ban of Tan Pin Pin’s documentary To Singapore With Love.
The documentary examines the lives of Singaporean exiles, including trade unionists, student leaders and Communists, who left Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s due to their fear of being imprisoned under Singapore’s Internal Security Act.
Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) classified the film yesterday as “Not allowed for all ratings”, on the grounds that it undermines national security. The classification means that the film can’t be shown or distributed in Singapore.
The group of 38 high-profile filmmakers and members of Singapore’s arts community expressed their “deep disappointment” at the MDA’s decision and called on the government body “to release their version of the events in question”, rather than banning the film outright (see full statement below).
To Singapore With Love premiered at last year’s Busan International Film Festival, screened widely at international festivals and won awards including best director in the Muhr AsiaAfria Documentary Awards at the Dubai International Film Festival.
The MDA said in a statement that it had “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 victimized innocent individuals.”
The National University of Singapore Museum submitted the film to the censors and was planning to screen it along with Tan’s earlier films Invisible City (2007) and Singapore GaGa (2005) at the end of this month.
STATEMENT ON THE MDA’S DECISION TO BAN TAN PIN PIN’S ‘TO SINGAPORE WITH LOVE’
We, the undersigned would like to express our deep disappointment at the Media Development Authority’s decision to ban Tan Pin Pin’s award winning documentary, ‘To Singapore With Love’.
Ms Tan’s film examines the lives of Singaporeans living in exile. In doing so, she explores an aspect of our nation’s history that is rarely discussed in the public sphere.
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.
‘To Singapore With Love’ screened at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival and has won multiple awards all over the world. It has received high praise from filmmakers, critics and festival programmers. Many commentators have described it as essential viewing for all Singaporeans. Banning the film will only reinforce the view that our government is trying to limit discussion around our very own history.
Finally, we would like to emphasize that censorship does nothing to promote a vibrant, informed society. We thus urge the MDA to reconsider its decision.
List of Signatories:
Ong Keng Sen
Kuo Jian Hong
Tan Tarn How
Wee Li Lin
Lee Xian Jie
Thum Ping Tjin
Han Yew Kwang
Lau Chee Nien
Noor Effendy Ibrahim