Friday, April 10, 2009

Singapore fest drops six titles over censorship

Six films have been withdrawn from the 22nd Singapore International Film Festival because of censorship, among them two competition titles, and four from Southeast Asian directors. Here's the films that were disallowed or passed with edits by the Board of Film Censors:

  • Boy -- Filipino director Auraeus Solito's film is the coming-of-age story of a boy who falls in love with a macho dancer. A Silver Screen competition film, the director had the option of having jurors view it in a closed-door screening, but Solito has decided to withdraw it from competition.
  • Shahida -- Israeli director Natalie Assouline's documentary on Palestinian women imprisoned for suicide bombing-related activities is disallowed. The Singapore censors are sensitive when it comes to the subjects of Islam and Middle Eastern affairs. It was part of the "In Focus" section.
  • An Extraordinary Study of Human Degradation -- Swedish filmmaker Patrik Eriksson used his cellphone camera to capture his severe mental breakdown after being dumped by his girlfriend, which saw him spiralling into a "chaotic world of netdating, excessive parties, masturbation and problems with women". The film was rated R21 with an edit to prolonged sexual scenes. It was part of the "Imagine" program of experimental works.
  • Female Games -- Kan Lume's drama about two Singaporean models who travel to Kuala Lumpur was to have made its premiere in the Singapore Panorama. It's "the first contemporary Singaporean film to boldly portray female homosexuality". It was rated R21 with an edit to a scene of "prolonged and explicit lesbian sex".
  • Melancholia -- Also part of the "Imagine" section, Lav Diaz' 450-minute drama on political oppression was rated R21 but still edited for "explicit sexual and lesbian scenes". It had been set for a free screening at Singapore's Goethe Institut.
  • Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly -- Edwin's reflection on Chinese people in Indonesia was rated M18 with an edit to a scene of "prolonged homosexual sex". Among the characters in the movie is "an influential gay couple with a fetish for army overalls [who] engage in a bizarre ménage à troi". Another title in the Asian Feature Film Competition for the Silver Screen Awards, Blind Pig will still be screened privately for jurors.

The Singapore International Film Festival has a no-cut screening policy -- if the Media Development Authority's Board of Film Censors make any edits, the film won't be shown in the festival. It's a good policy and a transparent way of doing things.

Additionally, four titles are rated R21 for mature themes, language or sexual scenes and allowed for screening in the festival only: Wendy & Lucy, The Wackness, Men's Group and Weltstadt -- City of the World.

It is interesting that Singapore has a motion-picture ratings system but also cuts movies, even those restricted for audience members over age 21. It must be this system that the Thai authorities looked to when designing their own forthcoming ratings system, which has provisions for cutting or banning.

As a reminder, there's an extensive lineup of Thai films at the Singapore fest. Among them is the special program 25 Years of the National Film Archive of Thailand, as well as three contemporary films. Here's the films and their ratings in Singapore:

  • The Boat House (PG)
  • King of the White Elephant (PG)
  • Diamond Finger/Signature: The Life and Work of R.D. Pestonji (NC16)
  • Sugar Is Not Sweet (NC16)
  • Son of the Northeast (NC16)
  • Gems from the Thai Film Archive (PG)
  • The Convert (NC16)
  • A Moment in June (R21)
  • Agrarian Utopia (PG)

The 22nd Singapore International Film Festival starts on Tuesday (April 14) and runs until April 25.

Update: By the way, I should mention that both screenings for A Moment in June are sold out.

(Via @siff09)


  1. Having a ratings system and still cutting films with the most restricted rating is not only happening in Thailand and Singapore, unfortunately.
    It's regularly done here in Germany, too, usually making the difference between ban and no ban for a film. Actually - and I wouldn't be surprised if this would happen "thanks" to Thailand's new rating system now too - genre movies around here are more often cut than not.

  2. Unfortunately, "A moment in June", on both screening dates, has been fully sold. I hope they can eventually reach the main screens in Singapore.

  3. Sorry Body, I noticed that news a few days back and failed to mention it. I hope Moment in June does eventually get a regular theatrical release in Singapore.

  4. I really don't see what the Singaporean state thinks it gains from this kind of institutional homophobia ...

    Also, what part of 'Wendy & Lucy' is unsuitable for 20-year-olds??


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