SINGAPORE: 4 films banned at movie festival

Board of Film Censors bans four documentary films for sensitive subject matter and explicit sequences

The Straits Times
Saturday, April 5, 2008

By Zakir Hussain

The censor has banned four documentary films from being screened at the ongoing 21st Singapore International Film Festival.

Two of them, Arabs And Terrorism and David The Tolhildan, were 'disallowed on account of their sympathetic portrayal of organisations deemed terrorist organisations by many countries', said Ms Amy Chua, chairman of the Board of Film Censors.

'Films which portray terrorist organisations in a positive light by lending support and voice to justify their cause through violence are disallowed under the film classification guidelines,' she said in an e-mail reply to The Straits Times.

The third film is about gay Muslims while the fourth has 'several prolonged and explicit sado-masochistic sequences'.

The four were among 200 films submitted for classification by festival organisers. The film festival began yesterday and ends on April 14.

The 135-minute Arabs And Terrorism, which was to have been shown today, includes interviews with United States and Middle Eastern policymakers as well as academics and leaders of radical groups on their conflicting definitions of terrorism.

The news that it was 'disallowed' was given to festival director Philip Cheah by the Media Development Authority, which oversees the censorship board.

Mr Cheah told The Straits Times he got the news over the phone on Thursday.

He declined to comment further, but the festival website showed tickets for the film had been sold out by Tuesday.

Ms Chua said the censorship board had consulted relevant agencies and the Films Consultative Panel (FCP), and found the documentaries had 'exceeded the film classification guidelines'. The FCP, made up of Singaporeans from various segments of society, helps the board evaluate controversial films.

David The Tolhildan, a 54-minute Kurdish film, is about Swiss national David Rouiller joining the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party.

In A Jihad For Love, an 81-minute documentary, a gay South African imam argues that homosexuality is not banned even as another imam rebuts his view.

Ms Chua said the film was 'disallowed in view of the sensitive nature of the subject that features Muslim homosexuals in various countries and their struggle to reconcile religion and their lifestyle'.

Bakushi, the fourth film that failed to escape the censors, is a 90-minute documentary on the practice of 'rope-tying' in Japan.

'It contains several prolonged and explicit sado-masochistic sequences, demonstrating how the rope masters tie up nude women and subject them to various degrees of physical abuse and sexual degradation for erotic gratification,' said MsChua.

'The theme normalises unnatural fetishes and behaviour which is disallowed under the Film Classification Guidelines.'