Tan Pin Pin’s Film Gets Censored

The Film Society of Lincoln Centre has called Tan Pin Pin’s new film, To Singapore, With Love, “enormously moving.” Fellow filmmaker Colin Goh agreed—“It is the only Singaporean film that truly deserves to be called a ‘must see’.” So why won’t it be shown on this sunny island? Here’s the scoop:

What Went Down

To Singapore, With Love is a documentary that follows the path of several political exiles who came to live outside their native country. According to the film’s official Facebook page, the filmmaker came across Escape from the Lion’s Paw, a book that detailed first-person accounts of these journeys—inspired, she decided to make a film out of it.

If approved, the film would be screened alongside Tan’s other films, Invisible City (2007) and Singapore GaGa (2005) at the museum of the National University of Singapore at the end of this month.

Sadly, the MDA classified it as “Not Allowed for All Ratings,” as it “undermined national security.”

Say what?

The MDA went on to state,

“The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore and remain outside Singapore. A number of these self-professed ‘exiles’ were members of, or had provided support to, the proscribed Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).”

That’s nothing new, right? I mean, Singapore bans films all the time. Wrong.

From what we know, it sounds like the kind of film that everyone should want to watch—after all, most of us were fed with the same story about Singapore’s history repeatedly throughout our education. We know the textbook version by heart, but that’s not all there is to the official story. Many of our elders know people who were political activists prior to our country’s independence, and some of these unofficial stories circulate through word of mouth. If one were truly interested, one may be able to get different versions of Singapore’s history in the form of a few books, some of which are—you guessed it—banned.

The censorship of this film has sparked outrage on social media, with many condemning the decision.

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Yup, you read that right.

Apart from these voices, historian Dr. Thum Ping Tjin has also stated that he is disappointed with the “the government’s unwillingness to face up to the past,” which, according to him, has been “thoroughly debunked.”

To us, it’s not just the censorship of a film—it’s the censoring of stories and voices that have made Singapore what she is today. The MDA is ignoring these important voices, and thinks that the official story is enough to keep us quiet. That’s not enough, and we need more.

Besides, a country’s history is made up of different stories, and all of them deserve to be heard. With the age of the internet and social media, these stories should readily be available, and we’re not going to let the MDA stop us.

So What Has Been Done?

Many veterans in the arts have signed a petition, asking MDA to lift the ban. Noteworthy signatures include Ivan Heng and Royston Tan, and the more signatures it gets, the more the world will know about it. The filmmaker herself says that she may re-submit the film for a rating in the future, but we cannot simply wait for the MDA to approve of it—we have to take matters into our own hands.

Where Can You Watch To Singapore With Love?

For now, we can head on over to the Freedom Film Festival in Johor Bahru on 19th September 2014 to see the film. In the meantime, getting the word out that a critically-acclaimed documentary that has been censored is our priority. It is not just a film—it’s about the bringing to light the different stories and lives of the people who have contributed to our country. These stories matter—it’s about time that we celebrate our unsung heroes.


With reference to Yahoo SingaporeMDA, CNA, and To Singapore With Love
Top image via To Singapore With Love