Made Banned Films In Singapore

Recently, To Singapore, With Love was banned in Singapore. Although it comes as a shock, out country has had a history of banning films for all too similar reasons. If you’re in the know, you’d be familiar with these. Have you watched any of them?

 1)  15
Screenshot 2014-10-08 16.49.21

Director: Royston Tan
Banned: 2002
Reclassified: 2006

15 shakes up the prim and proper image of Singapore as it is a gritty movie about teenage gang members. Giving us an insight into the underground world of juvenile youths, this film explores a side of Singapore that many people do not often see. The original short film made in 2002 became so popular that Royston turned it into a full-length film in 2003.

The film was banned because it was seen as a threat to Singapore’s national security, whatever that means. It featured real gang members—now that’s the way to feature the underbelly of society—and one of the stars was arrested mid-way through the filming for stabbing another gang member.

15 was originally banned but later given an R rating after it was to be cut 27 times. Fed up, Tan’s next film, Cut was inspired by his tussle with censorship.

2)  Zahari’s 17 Years

Screenshot 2014-10-08 16.42.45A still of the film, Zahari’s 17 Years

Director: Martyn See
Banned: 2007
Reclassified:

Zahari’s 17 Years is a 50-minute long documentary with Zahari, a former journalist about his 17-year detention in Singapore. He was suspected of pro-communist activities and arrested in 1963. Zahari was detained without trial for 17 years, one of the longest in Singapore.

Why was it banned? It was said to undermine security and confidence in government. Aand even though it’s still banned, you can find it online using Google. Zahari, meanwhile, lives a safe distance in Malaysia.

3) Singapore Rebel

Interview of Martyn See

Director: Martyn See
Banned: April 2005
Reclassified: September 2009

A documentary about Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan was banned because of its political nature, too. The ban was seen as irrelevant by many because the 26-minute video was made available online.

After revision of the Films Act—plus 16 months of investigation and covert style interviews with the filmmaker’s social circle—Singapore Rebel was re-classified 2009 and is now rated M18.

 4) “Sex. Violence. FamilyValues”

Screenshot 2014-10-08 13.37.25

Director: Ken Kwek
Banned: June 2012
Reclassified: January 2013

Sex. Violence. FamilyValues is local director Ken Kwek’s anthology of three short films: Cartoons, Porn Masala and The Bouncer. It was screened at dozens of international film festivals, so what happened when it reached our sunny shores?

“Porn Masala” in particular received the Audience Choice Award at the Gotham Screen Film Festival 2011. But at home, the Masala proved too hot for Singaporean tastebuds and the film was pulled from the cinemas merely three days before its theatrical release in June 2012. Ken’s film was seen as racially touchy because it could offend Indians.

The movie was originally given M18 rating before the ban. Eventually, it was reclassified R21 after edits. The censorship board missed the satire of this one. Maybe there needs to be a new rating called Satire: Not for the easily blur.

5) “To Singapore, With Love”

Screenshot 2014-10-08 16.47.21

Director: Tan Pin Pin
Banned: September 2014
Reclassified: Pending

Have you watched To Singapore, With Love yet? Not if you are in Singapore. It was the latest film to be banned but since its prohibition, interest in the movie has gone viral.

To Singapore, With Love is a documentary about the lives of nine Singaporeans who fled Singapore against the backdrop of a communist struggle from 1960s to 1980s.

The forbidden fruit has been on people’s minds ever since. Within days of the ban, Singaporeans flogged to Johor Bahru to see the film at the Freedom Film Festival. Along with looking for cheap food and chewing gum, they now had a banned film to look forward to in Malaysia.

In Parliament on Tuesday, various ministers asked about the fate of the movie. Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim replied that the film is not fit for screen to public because it “contains untruths and deception about this history.”

Nevermind that The Dictator was screened in theatres with no issues even through no body believes that version of history.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was also critical of the movie saying that it is that is “conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over inconvenient facts”.

But beyond our shores, the movie received resounding success.

The film is now awaiting appeal review. Singapore’s meanwhile will probably maintain its garden city status is by aggressively pulling out what it deems as weeds.


With reference to: Yahoo! Singapore, Singapore Rebel, Things Asian, Reuters, To Singapore, with Love 星国恋, Martyn see Interview
Images via: To Singapore, with Love 星国恋
, 15, Zahari’s 17 Years,  Sex.Violence.FamilyValues