From ‘S’pore film yanked from release over offensive racial remarks’, 9 Oct 2012, article by John Lui, ST
A LOCAL comedy that had originally been given an M18 film classification has had its release pulled by the Media Development Authority (MDA) over offensive racial remarks, just days before it is due to open in cinemas. Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, a compendium of three short films by first-time director Ken Kwek, was handed a Not Allowed For All Rating last evening, a rarely used classification. A film given such a rating is not allowed to be screened.
…Of the three shorts in Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, Porn Masala is the most controversial, revolving around the making of Singapore’s first “arthouse porno”. In a trailer released on the film’s website a few weeks ago, a boorish film director played by Adrian Pang and an Indian porn actor played by Vadi PVSS are seen trading racial insults, based on gross stereotypes.
…The MDA statement said: “An overwhelming majority of the panel members have expressed that the film should not be allowed for public exhibition in view of its overt racial references, which are demeaning and offensive to Indians.”
In the ‘dirty’ version of the movie trailer, Adrian Pang’s porn director makes reference to sex and alcohol in relation to Vasantham actor Vadi PVSS’s race. This ‘unkindest cut of all’ comes fresh after Amy Cheong got sacked for posting remarks about Malay weddings on Facebook, except this time it’s another minority race bearing the insult. Lionel De Souza is probably drafting a police report against the cast and crew as we speak.
At this rate of heavy censures being handed out for any form of stereotyping, where you could fire an NTUC assistant director or pull someone’s movie off local cinemas, you wouldn’t expect anything less than sacking radio DJs for mocking Indian accents, dismissing ST writers referring to ‘often- drunk Sikh priests’, or closing down Breadtalk for selling bread named ‘Naan the Nay’. You might as well clamp down on Kumar’s comedy routine, or ban all Bollywood DnD theme parties. Now, even being ‘politically incorrect’ is hazardous to your mental health not to mention career. But as if losing your bread and butter isn’t enough, your former employers use blame-shifting phrases like ‘I DID what WE had to do’(Lim Swee Say), and then ask people to ‘spare a thought’ for you after what they did to you. That’s like pushing you off a cliff and then throwing a pillow down in the hope that it would somehow cushion your fall.
The ‘Not Allowed for All Rating’, or NAR, is slapped on films which MDA describes as follows according to their Film Classification Guidelines:
- Themes that promote issues that denigrate any race or religion, or undermine national interest will not be allowed.
- Themes that glorify undesirable fetishes or behaviour (e.g. paedophilia and bestiality) are not allowed.
- Promotion or glamorisation of homosexual lifestyle.
Which puts Sex Violence in the same league as donkey porno. How did Sacha Baron Cohen’s films like Borat, Bruno and The Dictator get past the censors then? Did anyone miss the screaming Chinaman stereotype in films like the Hangover and Ted? Why wasn’t Mike Myers’ THE GURU banned? How about the discriminatory banter between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour trilogy? Did MDA ignore all these elements because these were blockbusters and Ken Kwek’s film is a small indie movie, or did they all assume that some races are better at taking potshots than the others?
But it’s not just Hollywood movies that have the potential to fall into NAR territory. Even our local productions are full of disguised ‘racism’, with Chinese being overrepresented in dramatic roles. In National Day videos, you’ll invariably have singing Indian prata men, and nobody said anything about Alaric Tay’s portrayal of a ‘Mat Rocker’ in the Noose. The only reason why nobody considers making the latter into a full-length feature is because MDA may NAR it too, on the grounds of ‘overt racial references’. Hence the I Not Stupid sequels. I suppose it’s better to have horrible English than being, you know, RACIST.
Moving along. Under ‘Language’, you have:
- Language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane (e.g. Jesus F**king Christ).
Fair enough. Except that in Ted, I believe there was a scene where the exact same wording as above was used, but the middle profanity was muted out. In the 25th hour, a good few minutes were sliced off Edward Norton’s ‘fuck the world’ rampage against the various ethnicities in New York City (for a R21 rating). Isn’t the NAR rating in this case like decapitating a patient who has a stye in the eye, firing a bazooka into a mouse hole, or using a samurai sword to peel a banana? Did someone lose the censors’ chopper and decided it was easier to ban it altogether? How about delaying Sex Violence’s slated release to talk to the producers about possible re-shoots? You know, a CONVERSATION perhaps? Maybe there could be two versions of the movie, an internationally acclaimed one called Sex Violence Family Values, and an edited PG 13 one for the domestic market that is ‘community-friendly’ called, well, FAMILY VALUES. Instead of Porn Masala, you could replace it with an episode of Jacintha’s ‘Mum’s not Cooking’.
Whether Sex Violence is considered satirical art is irrelevant. As with all banned videos, thousands of curious Singaporeans will be googling Porn Masala as we speak (Don’t do it at work, you’ll get ACTUAL PORN as the top search hit instead), but it’s unlikely that we’ll see the original version on Youtube, what used to be a trusted treasure trove of stuff that MDA’s censor panel can’t deal with after a century of co-mingling with other races (Well THANKS A LOT Innocence of Muslims!). At the expense of being annoyingly cordial to each other where any suggestion of discrimination has to be repressed, we’ve sadly lost the ability to laugh at ourselves, which is the way most developed countries deal with the idiosyncrasies of their racial melting pots. Forget the National Conversation. I want our national Humour back.
Yet, ironically, some good may come out of this. If Ken Kwek continues the run on the international circuit and ride on the publicity of the ban, Sex Violence will garner more attention than Sex:The Annabel Chong Story. And nothing will put the MDA to shame more than this movie picking up festival awards, or better still a selection for the Oscars Foreign Film nominations. By then, the best thing that could happen to local film is not that MDA passes it UNCUT, but that it BANS it altogether, like a Chinese film about the Nanjing massacre or tainted milk powder, covering up for ‘fault lines’ that exist no matter how you preach otherwise.
Postscript: While the producers are appealing the ban, MDA responded that they left the decision to a Films Consultative Panel, which consists of ‘volunteers of various professions, age groups, religions and races’. Of 24 members, 20 gave a thumbs down to the release, while 4 opted for the strictest rating possible R21. There have also been complaints of the depiction of a schoolgirl in a CHIJ uniform in Porn Masala, which could have been a cynical reference to convent girls being branded as sluts in need of a ‘one night stand’.
So, who’s in the FCP? My first impression was that this is a secret Oracle of know-it-alls who wear white hoods brandishing sceptres or a council of hologram Elders like those you see in the Superman movies, but they’re actually mortal human beings, according to details in the MDA website.
Let’s look the kind of people you need to speak about morals and ethics on behalf of 5.3 million people. For starters, the CHAIRPERSON Vijay Chandran is INDIAN, and ironically belongs to a company called ELASTICITY Pte Ltd. Another striking feature is how a majority of these members hold high positions in society, directors, doctors, CEOs, lawyers and a couple of obligatory housemakers, entrepreneurs, artists and students. Would a panel vote objectively if the chair belongs to a race that is picked on in the movie? How representative is such a panel anyway, and why is it there’s not a single moral philosopher or sociologist in the team? Why on earth do you need a POLICEMAN on the panel (Steven Moorthi)? How ELSE would you expect a cop to vote on race issues?
It’s obvious by glancing at the composition of the panel that the FCP is not a one size fits all arbiter of moral values, whether it’s gratuitous sex and violence, religious, race or gay issues. The very presence of an Indian leading the team already suggests bias in decision-making. Sex Violence deserves a second opinion, and whatever the final outcome, I for one, will be begging to watch it.
Postscript 2: The film eventually got passed with cuts under a R(21) rating. Don’t rush to book your tics yet, though, you’d never know if the MDA may decide to pull the film again days before screening.
Filed under: 2012, Censors, Film, Foul language, Local actors, Racism, Religion, Sex Tagged: | censors, discrimination, Film, Foul language, indian, indians, Local actors, porn, Racism, Sex, stereotyping