Organisers of the Singapore International Festival Of Arts’ (SIFA) pre-festival event The OPEN have withdrawn two films from its movie line-up after the Media Development Authority Singapore (MDA) said these required edits before it could be screened.
The films were Tony Manero by Chilean director Pablo Larrain and A German Youth by French film-maker Jean-Gabriel Periot.
…In a statement, organisers said they were informed yesterday (June 17) that both movies required a scene each to be cut due to sexual and mature content, respectively. Rather than screen a film with edits, the organisers have chosen to pull out both films “to respect the integrity of the directors’ vision and craft”.
The two scenes in question were a fellatio scene in Tony Manero and a scene featuring a video on how to make a Molotov cocktail in A German Youth. Both films had received an R21 rating on the condition that the scenes be edited.
…SIFA director Ong Keng Sen told TODAY: “The objection to the fellatio scene was that it was too graphic and extreme, but I told them it should be put into context on why people are behaving this way. It was about how violence and decadence has been imprinted in the human being.”
Meanwhile, A German Youth is a documentary that was shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. It traces the founding of the militant Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhof Group.
Ong questioned the objection to the Molotov cocktail scene, citing how the information on making one is already available on the Internet. “I tried Googling how to make it and it’s all within the first four entries. We have to ask ourselves if these censorship guidelines are still applicable when all of these are available on the Internet,” he said.
Well, you can google ‘nude uncensored sex’ on the Internet and get exactly what you want but that doesn’t mean we should scrap censorship altogether, be it for mainstream movies or ‘niche’ festival films. Cutting out a blowjob scene is probably expected of MDA, but snipping a scene teaching you how to make a homemade bomb is strange given that we do allow films featuring ‘occasional recreational drug use’, as well as cinematic step-by-step manuals on how to design and operate improvised weapons of fiery destruction, nevermind if these actually work in real life.
This scene from Salt starring Angelina Jolie, for example, tells you how to escape from a room conveniently stocked with volatile chemicals and a fire extinguisher by assembling an instant flamethrower in less than a minute.
The one and only Macgyver can blow people up using a video camera and silly putty. The whole series, in fact, is about the man making weapons out of scraps.
Which suggests that it’s OK if you’re the good guy making an explosive out of baking soda, detergent and shoelaces, but not if you’re intending to use it in a riot against the Authority. If that’s the case, we should also censor films and TV featuring scenes of people smashing bottles in half and turning them into stabbing weapons. We already banned beer bottles in Tekka hawker centre for the exact same reason anyway.
In fact, in the fifties before we had videotapes not to mention Youtube, the ST even revealed an old-timey homemade bomb recipe in one of their riot reports: Petroleum jelly/trade rubber, petrol, cotton fuse. Today, you can experiment with DIY detonators using nothing but ingredients and accessories bought from Daiso. You could build a bomb in pyjamas over your kitchen sink without having to put on goggles, labcoat or safety boots. You don’t need an obscure film from a festival that few people care about to transform us into amateur terrorists overnight.
Other than cracking down on festival films glamourising bomb-making, terrorism, explicit sex and homosexuality, our censors also objected to themes that potentially threaten religious and racial order. In 2004, we banned ‘The Final Solution‘, an Indian documentary that was considered ‘inflammatory’ because it dealt with communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. Singapore’s very own ‘To Singapore With Love’ was a liability to national security. I’m not surprised no one has thought of making a film based on the true story of Mas Selamat’s escape. It would probably be banned as well because it puts a certain minister in a bad light, and teaches viewers how to slip out of a toilet and cross over to Malaysia amid tight security, without having to assemble a single Molotov cocktail while at it.
Then there were the weird ones. In 2008, we banned ‘Bakushi’, a Japanese film about rope bondage. 6 years later, we passed ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ without cuts on the big screen with an R(21) rating. Perhaps there is hope for fetish fans after all. Still, it’s ridiculously ironic how the cut Molotov cocktail scene is categorised here as ‘mature content’, when the censors obviously think adults are not mature enough to handle it, that people would suddenly become ‘self-radicalised’ after watching a foreign film, go raid liquor and hardware stores, then fly a private plane above the city and drop little homemade bombs causing death, destruction and chaos everywhere.