On 2 October 2014, filmmaker Tan Pin Pin re-submitted her film, “To Singapore, With Love”, for classification with the Media Development Authority (MDA).
The MDA had originally rated her film “NAR” – “Not Allowed for All Rating”.
This means the film is not allowed to be screened in public or be distributed.
The MDA later said the film is allowed to be screened “in private” and to students in tertiary institutions.
Since Ms Tan re-submitted the film for rating, however, several ministers and government departments have castigated the film, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He said the accounts given in the film by the former members of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) were “self-serving” and were “conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over facts in others.”
He questioned why they should be allowed “to present an account of themselves” through film if they did not also took responsibility for their past deeds.
The Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, also criticised the film. He told Parliament on 7 October that the film’s “one-sided portrayals” are designed to “evoke feelings of sympathy and support for individuals” who in reality chose to leave Singapore and remain in self-exile.
He added that it “contains untruths and deception.”
The MDA itself had described the film as being a “threat to national security”.
And the Government’s latest response, the press secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister said allowing the film to be screened in public “would be like allowing jihadi terrorist groups today to produce and publicly screen films that glorify their jihadist cause.”
In short, the Government has basically condemned the film in more ways than one.
So, the question is: what happens now to Ms Tan’s appeal?
Have the various condemnations by ministers and government agencies, including the MDA which Ms Tan is appealing to, sealed the fate of the film once and for all?
It is indeed unfortunate that the government has found it fit to issue public condemnation of the film even before Ms Tan had made her appeal and even after she had done so.
Ms Tan’s appeal is specifically to the 15-member Films Appeal Committee (FAC), which is under the aegis of the MDA.
The chairman of the FAC is Tan Boon Huat, who is the former chief executive director of the People’s Association.
Among its members is former Attorney General, Professor Walter Woon.
Perhaps the government should adopt a wiser approach in future – and refrain from commenting on a film which has been submitted for appeal.
This gives the committee or agency involved which is going to make the decision on the appeal the room to do so, without any pressure – real or otherwise – from the government.