Tag: Film

Post-event thoughts

In a week, I’ve attended the Singapore Design Festival, Singapore Writers Festival (poorly designed site) and the 10th anniversary of The Substation’s Movings Images program (it’s still on!) and I would like to make these observations.

Concept is king
…but that is one thing that is an exception rather than the norm in the much of the work I have come across. Especially when it comes to design, I think many people still have that idea that it is mainly an aesthetic tool rather than a problem-solver. I think Mr Fong of 
Ethos Books, a local independent book publisher, put it very simply when he narrowed it down to two things when considering design or anything in general, what is it you wanted to say and to whom. With

Passion drives you and inspires others
This was most evident in the seminars I attended as part of the Singapore Writers Festival. I came away most from Mr Fong and Mr Raman Krishnan, a independent book publisher in Malaysia. These two speakers knew why they were in the business and were more than willing to share their thoughts on issues, unlike some of the other speakers who most of the time gave really general answers. It definitely helped that both were championing local works and Mr Raman Krishnan also spoke about how Singaporeans and Malaysians knew little about each other’s talents despite the commonality in culture. They definitely inspired me because they were not just in things for the money.

Get back to basics
Especially when it comes to design, put aside all the frills and then the question to answer is, have you got your basics right? There was this pair of chopsticks in the “Iamacreativeperson” exhibition (which was a rip-off as compared to Utterubbish) that was elevated on one side so that the ends do not touch the table for hygiene purposes. However, that would mean the user has to consciously place it on the elevated side for it to be effective. I thought that really defeated the purpose of the design by simply not solving the problem and instead added a layer of complexity.

Singapore culture: always anti-government?
This one came about after watching 
Hosaywood.com’s Zo Gang (Hokkien for Do Work) and Zo Hee (Hokkien for Do Film) and I was wondering to myself if the portrayal of Singapore culture in films was increasingly being monopolised by a group of select film-makers, often English-educated Chinese, who focused on topics like lampooning the government, championing Hokkien and Singlish, and focusing on the underbelly of Singapore. What about the rest of our culture, for instance our other races, our history, our politics… I think institutional checks like The Films Act are in a way limiting the diversity of films produced here. Ironically, in order to comment on politics, films have to portray it in a less “serious” form to engage the audience and escape getting in trouble with the government. This dumbs down the political engagement of the audience and also defeats the government’s call to take politics seriously.

Of porn and politics

I don’t keep a stash of porn films in the corner of my cupboard, not because I’m scared my mum will find out but rather it would cost me a fine of up to $40, 000 or a prison term of up to two years, or even both, if I were convicted under Singapore law.

The law in Singapore acts to protect our values and promote virtue, in a manner that Aristotle argued should be its proper end.

Hence, pornography, widely regarded as detrimental to society, surely deserves such stiff laws to protect Singaporeans from falling prey to it.

Within the Films Act, where this law is found, is also an amendment from 1998 involving the making, distributing or exhibiting of party political films.

Any of the above might mean facing a fine of up to $100, 000 or a prison term of up to two years. Why ban political party films?

Are they more dangerous than pornography?

If pornography could corrupt our views on sex and demean women, what could politics do to warrant such a law?

Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, said in a recent interview with The Straits Times that a ban on party political films is necessary because of the emotional nature of the medium.

It “can arouse all kinds of reactions without an opportunity for the rebuttal to be made effectively.”

He added that while Singaporeans were intelligent and mature and could make their own judgments, there were some who were not discerning enough.

Indeed, party political films that border along the lines of propaganda have a powerful effect on its viewers.

During World War II, both the Allies and the Axis powers were guilty of portraying the other in a distorted fashion in the films, to win the hearts and minds of the people.

However, this amendment to the Films Act does not apply to films sponsored by the Government.

Think about the films we watched about Singapore’s struggle for independence.

The PAP is featured extensively as the ones who made Singapore successful.

While I do not dispute that, what I find interesting is that other political elements of Singapore’s history like David Marshall and his Labour Front and the Barisan Sosialis consistently get sidelined as footnotes of Singapore’s history.

Can such films be classified as “party political films”?

What is the amendment of the Films Act regarding party political films suppose to protect Singaporeans from?

“Singapore Rebel”, a 26-minute documentary about Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party, caught the attention of Singaporean filmmakers when it was suggested to have breached the Films Act.

It was pulled out from the Singapore International Films Festival after the Board of Film Censors informed its maker, Martyn See, that he could be jailed or fined if he were to screen it to the public as it was objectionable under this act.

Subsequently, he was called up by police for investigations and had the remaining copies of his film and his video camera confiscated.

The underlying question is what purpose does this law serve: to protect the citizens from politics or to protect politics from its citizens?

The Nanyang Chronicle, 17th Oct 2005