Viewpoint from a filmmaker -Ting Szu Kiong

We continue with a series of responses from local filmmakers on the current regulation and/or censorship system in Singapore. This is an ongoing project initiated by a group of students from LASALLE. Discussions and exchange of views are encouraged between members of the public and arts practitioners on the regulatory issue of films in Singapore. View our previous interviews here.

We find out what local filmmaker, Szu Kiong has to say:

1. During the process of making a film, have you ever felt restricted by any regulatory boundaries set by MDA? If yes, in what ways?

For my case, I have not felt restricted because I have never produced violent, sexually explicit, and racially, religiously or politically sensitive films although my films can be quite artistic. My films are "healthy".

I like to add that in my personal experience, MDA / SFC is not entirely close-minded. My first short film, MY KEYS, portrays the Goddess of Mercy, which is a religious figure, in a mischevious way. My second short film, MICHELLE, shows a melancholic woman walking in streets and enviously gazing at loving couples. At the end, we learn that she's a transvestite yearning to be a normal woman. Before I made my fourth short film, THE FOREST SPIRITS, people threw wet blanket at me saying that SFC would only support films with local flavors and never support the wuxia genre. These films are all supported by SFC.

2. If for artistic purposes, would you make a film which you know might attract censors or cuts but still continue to do it anyway? Why?

If it is a short film which involves low budget and I feel strongly for, I would probably make it anyway. There are many film festivals around the world which might be more tolerant. If it is a feature film which is likely to be banned, I rather not because I am not a rich filmmaker. I would likely choose to make feature films that can reach out to all ages.

3. In the Arts Community Position Paper, it is suggested that regulation should be implemented in place of censorship, as the former involves objective classification that is not politically-motivated. What is your view?

It sounds good because regultions should be clearer.

4. Two of MDA’s guiding principles behind its regulatory work are to uphold community values and to safeguard national and public interest. What is your view?

I guess such guidelines are common in many countries. Most people should agree that filmmakers should not make films that are biased against a minority group, or any religion. Of course exercising the guidelines can be controversial and even colored with prejudices. However, it is a double edged sword because how the government acts and the mentality of the majority are related to each other. Often, the conservative group wins because of the government's support. So, the government has to change its perception and take steps to educate people and clear prejudices.

5. Have you participated in any discussion programmes or feedback consultations with regards to content regulation initiated by MDA? Would you participate in future? Why?

Nope. But I don't mind participating.

6. What do you have to say about the censoring/banning of content in films screened in local theatres which are still obtainable on the Internet?

This is like a case of a parent forbidding children to do this and that at home, but the parent can't stop them from doing those things out of home. People in the arts community would question the rationale of banned contents while they can all be accessed on the Internet. I think this kind of train of thought is dangerous because it means that since porn can be obtainable on the Internet, why ban porn in theatres? So, I advice people should not reason like that.

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