Pappy washing powder video is a political film

From ‘MDA reminds parties to not contravene Films Act ahead of General Election’, 17 Aug 15, article by Faris Mokhtar, CNA

The Media Development Authority (MDA) on Monday (Aug 17) said it will not be taking action against the Opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for releasing a political film, which contravenes the Films Act.

The SDP uploaded two videos as part of its online campaign for the coming General Election. One focused on the local education system, suggesting that the system is stressful and has affected students’ well-being.

The other video is a tongue-in-cheek commercial featuring a made-up washing detergent brand called “Pappy White“. It shows a woman putting clothes printed with words like “transparency” and “democracy” into a washing machine. MDA has classified the video as a political film.

However, the authority said it will not be taking action against the SDP, noting that this is the first such incident. MDA added that parties may not have been fully aware of what is contained in the Films Act.

The authority reminded parties and candidates that they need to ensure that their political films do not contravene the Films Act. MDA also said it will not hesitate to enforce the law should they continue to publish such films.

The Films Act bans the making, import, distribution or screening of “party political films”. However, some films which meet certain criteria can be exempted. These include factual documentaries and manifestos of political parties produced by or on behalf of a political party.

The first ever political film to be shown to public is likely to be 1959’s ‘newsreel’ about PAP electioneering. Opposition parties complained that this was biased towards only one party. Ironically, the same ruling party that came up with the ban decades later could themselves have been breaching the said regulations when they first started out.

SDP’s Pappy washing powder creation has an unlikely connection with Forrest Gump. In 1998, BG George Yeo, then head of the Ministry of Information and the Arts, passed an Amendment which disallowed the distribution and exhibition of ‘political films’. He was convinced that opposition parties had sufficient avenues to disseminate their views. Fellow ‘pappie’ Jacob (Yaacob?) Ibrahim was concerned about the ‘danger’ of digital technology creating false images, as depicted in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ when Tom Hanks’ titular hero was morphed into a scene with JFK.

Which means you can forget about recreating LKY’s CG clone for a future film after all those actors worthy enough to portray him have died.

Today, our dear George is lauded as PAP’s Internet ‘maverick’, and the Films Act has since been ‘clarified’ to exclude certain types of content from the ban. For example, a film that is a live recording of any event (performance, assembly etc) which does not depict the event, person or situation in a ‘DRAMATIC’ way. An classic example of how this apparent ‘relaxation’ of legislation took effect was the decision to unban Martyn See’s ‘Singapore Rebel’. From the video on Youtube, you see scenes of Chee Soon Juan mobbed to fever pitch by the police and bystanders rabble-rousing. Nope, not the least ‘dramatic’ at all. Another of See’s films, Speakers Cornered, also features CSJ, but was passed uncut with an NC-16 rating because the MDA decrees that you need ‘maturity to discern the intent and message of the film’. No such luck for Tan Pin Pin’s ‘To Singapore With Love’. All the maturity in the world can’t offer you a glimpse of the banned, allegedly manipulative documentary.

Even without ‘dramatic elements’ or ‘animation’, an unedited video of someone telling his life story would still fall afoul of the censors if it ‘undermines public confidence in the Government’, as what happened to another Martyn See work starring ‘ex-leftist’ Lim Hock Siew. Vague terms like ‘dramatic’ or ‘factual’ have no place in the Law when the Authority, or its ‘independent panels’, have the wherewithal to decide what is ‘non-partisan’ and what is ‘political’ regardless of what the Act says. Undermining public confidence in the PAP is exactly what the Pappy washing powder implies, though the MDA failed to point this out as a ‘political’ element for some reason.

We’re so used to Mediacorp ‘current affairs’ programmes featuring Cabinet ministers, such as 2005’s ‘Up Close’, that we forget that these too may potentially breach the Films Act. And there are so many other ‘films’ out there with hidden political ‘agendas’ that get off scot-free. Like a cringeworthy, totally non-partisan Young PAP recruitment video about ‘re-igniting a passion for servant leadership’, which was spared because it did not have ‘animation or dramatic elements’. Others that inevitably fall out of MDA’s radar, including those with song, dance and animation, include:

  1. A homemade tribute video on the PAP’s 60th annivesary, with a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino Western. Pappy Unchained?

2. A Steven Lim monologue urging you to vote PAP. Which the PAP may decide to ban for an entirely different reason.

3. This Taiwanese animation on Chee Soon Juan getting jailed.

4. This multimedia presentation that climaxes with a PAP logo next to a thumbs up. With cool retro 8-bit music.

5. This ‘Friday parody of how wonderful Election Day is.

6. Mr Brown parody on our ‘One Party’ leadership.

Which goes to show how archaic our laws are when it comes to catching up with new media. MDA’s ticking off aside, the Pappy video remains online as we speak, and in the meantime, if you need some legal ‘political’ entertainment, there’s this:

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Lim Kay Tong as LKY in 1965 movie

From ‘Lim Kay Tong to portray Lee Kuan Yew in SG50 film’, 8 Oct 2014, article by Genevieve Sarah Loh, Today

After an extensive two-year search for the right actor to play the nation’s founding father and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the upcoming SG50 film, 1965, producers of the movie have picked veteran local thespian Lim Kay Tong to fill the role.

The film has been five years in the making, starting off as a biopic about Mr Lee, but evolving into a story about the time the nation experienced racial riots. As the film’s executive producer Daniel Yun told TODAY last month, it was about “how fragile racial harmony can be and how we can take it for granted”.

In their search for a leading actor, the producers spoke to almost 20 people, including local actor-turned-Hollywood mainstay Chin Han.

Interestingly, Lim Kay Tong was cast in the lead role of the 2004 local film Perth as a taxi driver prophetically named HARRY LEE. Though LKT seems to be a shoo-in for the role despite the lack of physical resemblance (LKY is taller, for example), I would be more interested to see who the other candidates were besides Chin Han. I’d expect the criteria to be English-speaking, Singaporean with some Hollywood experience preferred, and I can’t even count the number of other local actors who could meet the minimum standard with one hand. In terms of Hollywood blockbusters, Chin Han in fact beats Kay Tong hands down if you go by number of appearances in movies, though his roles were largely restricted to bit parts, with the exception of the Dark Knight where he played a typical Asian scumbag (which LKY is so obviously not). Chin Han’s age of a youthful 44 also matches that of LKY in 1965 (42). Maybe having ‘Masters Of the Sea’ as part of his filmography was the deal-breaker.

I can only think of a total of 3 other actors who could fit the bill. Edmund Chen, for example, is effectively bilingual, though Hollywood may only remember him for his role in Street Fighter:The Legend of Chun Li, where he gets a few kicks in with the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s Balrog. I’ve a feeling he may be too good-looking for the role too. Adrian Pang, a solid dramatic actor and recognised thespian himself, worked alongside Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in Spy Game. The last one is the just married Ivan Heng, who was in Luc Beeson’s Fifth Element. So who were the other 15, I wonder. Could Mediacorp staples Pierre Png or Tay Ping Hui possibly have cast their lot in the mix? If Huang Wenyong were still alive, could he have been considered for the role despite the language handicap?

Before LKT, there were rumours that HK acting god Tony Leung would be chosen for the role. LKY was also depicted by Chinese actor Zhang Guang Bei in a Deng Xiaoping drama series. LKT’s heavyweight role may very well overshadow all the other aspects of the 1965 movie, the fact that Joanne Peh and hubby are in it but not playing lovers, that there’s a Singapore Idol in it (the last one, perhaps), and 2 of the main cast are not even Singaporeans (Qi YiWu and Deanna Yusof). But most telling of all is that 1965 is bankrolled by none other than the MDA and MCCY, and PAP bigwigs like the PM himself and Yaacob Ibrahim will be invited to the movie premiere and, regardless of how bad the movie actually turns out to be, praise the film not just for LKT’s powerhouse performance but that it is an ‘objective portrayal’ of events, not in the least ‘self-serving’, ‘one-sided’, nor does it contain a single ‘distortion’ or ‘untruth’. Not like some other film about other people fighting for independence. 1965 is a film immune to criticism or censorship, and I sympathise with the reviewer assigned to rate it once it’s out.

I’m just surprised that the responsibility of directing didn’t go to Jack Neo. Maybe he’d have come up with a more interesting title than the boring ‘1965’. Like ‘Lao Lee’,  ‘Ah Lee to PM’ or ‘Where Got Riots?’. If the PAP decided to make a movie about the ‘watershed’ 2011 GE, I have my own selection of actors to play the ministers/MPs.

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And of course Baey Yam Keng. As himself.

 

NS as a 2 year character enrichment programme

From various letters, 15 Oct 2013, ST Forum

(Paul Sim Ruiqi): I READ the results of the Institute of Policy Studies survey on public perceptions of national service with much caution (“Poll reveals changing perceptions of NS”; last Wednesday) – in particular, the finding that more people viewed NS as a way to instil discipline and values among the young than as a pillar of national defence.

NS should not be seen as a two-year enrichment or character-development programme as much as it is an individual’s contribution to the nation. There is an undue emphasis on the transformation of boys into men, as portrayed by recent movies and television series.

(Gerard Ong):…We must never forget that we train our national servicemen to fight to win – nothing less.

…When I was called up for NS, many of those in my cohort and I were convinced that we were going to be trained to be fighting soldiers. We understood that the discipline and values that came with our training were incidental and part and parcel of military life. We wanted to be out in the field, learning how to handle our weapons, field craft, operational procedures, shooting and unarmed combat.

We came in wanting to be fighters, not disciplined team players, which we had already learnt how to be by playing team sports or joining school uniformed groups. The survey findings should be examined closely by our leaders and Ministry of Defence, as the public’s perception of NS as primarily an instiller of discipline and values is rather disturbing.

There was a scene in the Ah Boys to Men 2 movie where the main cast applied their military skills to enact revenge on a couple by bombing their car with shit. A comedy played for laughs, some viewers thought Jack Neo’s movie trivialised NS, calling it sexist, misogynist and bad for SAF overall. By the end of the movie, we never know if the boys are capable of killing the enemy, but are constantly bombarded with the message that NS is great for life-skills, family bonding and ‘camaraderie’. There is, however, no evidence that men emerge from NS as better friends, husbands, employees or leaders, and the social benefit of NS, grossly exaggerated in pop culture, has turned from a by-product of regimentation and suffering to a convenient justification for having NS in the first place.

The army itself is guilty of plugging the ‘character building’ angle. Being in uniform would supposedly make you more attractive to women. It also makes you think of your father as an embattled hero and role model. Unlike the ads for the Air Force which emphasise protection of the motherland, the Army insists on humanising NS because the original bloody intent of conscription i.e killing people is a bitter pill to swallow. Especially if you’re a worried parent who’ve seen one too many boys die for nothing.

The researcher who led the poll, Dr Leong Chang Hoong, revealed to the media that only 1 in 10 women would serve NS, and then followed up to say ‘even simple gestures from the female population, such as ORGANISING LUNCH for men training in the field, would make a “significant psychological impact”. Is it any wonder Singaporean women would decline the offer to don the uniform and hang out with the boys, only to be summoned to make Ayam brand tuna sandwiches or cook instant noodles in mess tins for them? I doubt anyone would argue that NS for girls would make them better wives or mothers without receiving a nomination for AWARE’s Alamak Awards. Why stop at green eyeshadow? How about distributing a recipe booklet called ‘Outfield BBQ for Heroic Boys in Green’ or something.

I’m not sure if the survey addressed the ‘fighting soldier’ argument as to how many of our men are actually battle-ready and willing to die for the country, that includes the writers above who support the ‘pillar of national defence’ rationale. The reality is many men spend their NS in filler, ‘supportive’ roles like ‘storemen’ or logistics supervisors, and are likely to pass out of it without a single day of field camp, without a sense of undying self-sacrificing purpose that anyone who puts on that uniform is supposed to have. Men without a single meaningful memory outside of staying in the bunk and waiting for orders to perform odd jobs.  At the other extreme, some have compared NS to SLAVERY, whereby minions are drilled in unarmed combat and how to stab dummies with a bayonet. Sort of like gladiators, perhaps. And then there is this guy, who has clearly applied aggression, the vital force of a winning army, in real life. In a LIBRARY. Shudder in fear, enemies!

Despite gaining all the ‘discipline’ and ‘values’ over 2 years, your boss may still quietly frown on your frequent call-ups, or you may miss out on crucial projects that could have earned you a promotion. Some can do without the ‘enrichment’ altogether by getting themselves downgraded, to the extent of celebrating it in public. How ironic that a ‘chow keng’ becomes a millionaire even before you manage to land your first job because you’re too busy defending the nation. Well, at least you still have your lifelong friends and an arsenal of explosive swear words, eh?

Our boys aren’t born Vikings, nor do they pass out of BMT mass chorusing ‘We will still be Friends Forever’ in Vitamin C’s hit ‘Graduation’. Personally I wouldn’t call NS a total waste of time, but I wouldn’t make a big-deal macho fantasy out of it either. The ST editor referred to our defence strategy as that of a ‘poison shrimp’ (NS is no glorified boot camp, 12 Oct 2013, ST) which deters anyone from stepping on it despite our miserable size. It’s dangerously unrealistic to think that we’re tiger prawns instead.

Ilo Ilo child actor physically assaulted on set

From ‘Why was child actor caned’, 8 June 2013, Mailbag, ST

(Teo Eng Swee): I refer to the article, As Real As It Gets (SundayLife!, June 2), on the award- winning film Ilo Ilo directed by Anthony Chen.

It is stated that the child actor was caned for real several times in two takes while shooting a scene. I was taken aback to read that the child was physically assaulted in the name of achieving realism in the film. Even though his mother appeared to have consented to the caning, this seems to be wrong. Animals are humanely treated during filming. It seems to me that children should be treated to a much higher standard.

I hope that the relevant authorities, such as the Media Development Authority, Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Manpower, will set high standards that safeguard children who are working in the entertainment industry

Koh Jia Ler, 12, had no issue with being whipped on set. In fact, in the interview he said it was a ‘small thing to him’ and admitted that Mommy used to trounce him when he was younger. Which means some parents are still using the old fashioned method of discipline as recently as 2000. I believe a TWELVE year old actor should be mature and professional enough to deal with a little pain for the price of stardom. After all, this could be the very last time he may experience the once familiar hot sting of tough love. These days, men either have to PAY, or go on a graffiti rampage, to get some spanking dished out.

Only time will tell if being flogged for everyone in Cannes to see would leave psychological scars on a growing boy. Protective parents and human rights activists could be up in arms over Ilo Ilo for being too ‘gritty’ for its own good, but forget that they live in a country where even adults are systematically caned as a form of punishment. Foreign audiences familiar with our barbaric penalties would view the scene as a commentary of Singapore’s medieval caning ‘culture’, though modern parents, Singaporean or otherwise, generally shun the rod and spoil the child instead. Better they turn out to be brats who sleep with their iPads than hooked on Prozac and listen to goth. If a stern voice, fierce scowl and ‘reasoning’ works for your kid, then congrats. But if the little bastard turns out to be a problem child from hell, then perhaps a ‘light touch’ which celebrity parenting gurus rave about may be as useful as placing a crucifix on Godzilla.

But this isn’t the first time the dreaded Cane is featured in a local movie. Jack Neo unleashed his fury with one in ‘I Not Stupid Too’.

In the original I Not Stupid, Jack slapped the boy actor playing his son (Shawn Lee) till he BLED FROM THE NOSE. It was almost comical in its brutality. Damn it Jack, either you’re paying your child actors too well or you’ve hired budding masochists for your films. Today, Shawn Lee seems like a normal young adult in a relationship according to his Facebook page despite being viciously attacked by Neo before puberty. Didn’t think he needed ‘safeguarding’ by the likes of MDA, an agency known for doing more damage ‘protecting’ the public than doing nothing at all.

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Tough love Jack Neo style

You don’t hear anybody complaining about I Not Stupid’s violence against children, nor children inflicting violence on themselves (Shawn’s character considered SUICIDE by jumping) because its attempt at sociopolitical satire overshadowed all explicit depictions of child abuse. In fact, Neo’s film was lauded by the British, for whom caning or smacking children is ILLEGAL. Most locals tend not to gasp and cover their eyes at such scenes, not because we routinely mete out corporal punishment ourselves, but we can understand why some parents resort to smacking Singaporean kids about. For those at the end of their tether but struggling to hold back, you could even say they’re envious of it. But why harp on tortured child actors when women are getting slapped left-right-centre in Taiwanese soap operas?

Let’s hope it’s not just a case of forbidden fruit and Western parents’ secret desire to throttle their unruly kids that earned Ilo Ilo its 15-minute standing ovation triumph at Cannes, that the movie won its prize not because people are drawn to Singaporean kids being ass-whipped as they are to North Korean kids playing hopscotch. If MDA censors Ilo Ilo because of scenes depicting child cruelty, perhaps another Hong Lim protest is in order. We could call it #FreeMyIloIlo, but that would sound too much like a protest about pasta.

Doh’mestic violence

Ah Boys to Men is sexist and promotes premarital sex

From ‘Ah Boys to Men is Bad for SAF’ and ‘Why promote pre-marital sex’, 30 Nov 2012, Voices, Today

(Vanessa Tai): I recently watched Ah Boys to Men with my parents and younger brother, who is undergoing National Service. Like other Jack Neo films, the humour was slapstick and littered with Hokkien expletives.  Those jokes were tolerable, but the misogynistic script was unbearable. For example, the recruits referred to women as “clothing that can be easily discarded” in a bid to cheer up one of the recruits who had been dumped.

Another example was a sergeant showing his recruits how to tear a certain leaf in order to form the shape of female genitals. Perhaps Mr Neo is accurately representing army life, but there is no value in such distasteful jokes. From what I understand, such banter is commonplace in the army, and while most guys do not hold sexist views, they play along so as not to be ostracised, which is a shame. Such behaviour should not be accepted as the norm.

A first-class military is not one that is just well armed or well trained in combat. A first-class military – in fact, a first-class society – is an egalitarian one that treats each member with respect, regardless of sex or socio-economic background. The Singapore Armed Forces is moving into a Third Generation, with greater emphasis on nurturing and engaging each soldier, which is a step in the right direction. However, more can be done to improve the image of our soldiers. Ah Boys to Men is a caricature, yes, but with many impressionable young men watching it, my worry is that Mr Neo’s careless stereotypes may undo a lot of the SAF’s good work.

(Goh Lee Hwa):As a mother, I am perturbed that Mr Jack Neo (picture) is endorsing pre-marital sex, in the scene where a guy told his girlfriend that he must have it before enlistment, or else the angels in “heaven” would laugh at him should he die during National Service. We parents are trying to discourage such practices, yet Mr Neo is endorsing it. That scene was uncalled for.

Careless, MDA. You’ve banned another local film for insulting Indians but clearly forgot about a film from a celebrated director that puts our entire ARMY to shame. Thanks to Jack Neo, now we know our boys are NOT writing letters to their loved ones, singing camp songs or playing carom in their bunk in their spare time, but trading sexist jokes, boasting about stealing their girlfriends’ virginity away or playing with ‘CB’ leaves. They also shouldn’t get drunk, steal rifles, cry like woosies in field camp, smoke cigarettes or have their maids carry backpacks for them. All that sort of loutish behaviour would surely do our military in. Leaves as sex paraphernalia instead of camouflaging against the enemy. The cheek!

Yes, our SAF has done a remarkable job of keeping Singapore SO safe we’ve never suffered a single war since its inception. Thanks to our army grooming responsible, ‘egalitarian’ citizens out of rough jewels, we’ll never have to worry about the same men beating women about, having sex with underage prostitutes, cheating on their wives, surfing porn or exchanging sex for favours even if they’re head honchos of key public institutions. How could you, Jack Neo. Why can’t you stick to making I NOT STUPID sequels, and portray students as suicidal depressives instead? That would be accurate, at least.

But seriously, why pick on Jack Neo when there are so many other movies out there which insult both sexes and plug stereotypes about young horny men? Does the writer think Jack Neo is a ‘role model’ for Singaporean boys? This guy cross-dresses like a grandmother for God’s sake. Boys are not going to watch Ah Boys to Men to PREPARE for army, or even for the humour. They would rather accompany their teenage girlfriends to watch the Breaking Dawn finale, and then hope that she returns some hot lovin’ for their painful sacrifice. No, Ah Boys to Men is likely to be a fave of Jack Neo’s staple audience, heartland uncles and aunties, and perhaps the entire singing crew of A Nation’s March. There are, of course, more important things to be worried about than SAF turning your boy into a Hokkien-spewing wife-beater. You’d better hope that he comes out of it ALIVE with his sanity and limbs intact, and lungs not permanently scarred from inhaling grenade smoke.

Any army boy booking out to spend their weekends seeing a whitewashed version of army reality is simply wasting his time. He’d rather polish boots than swallow cheap comic-relief stereotypes about potty mouthed drill sergeants, the mummy’s boy who can’t do a single pull-up and gets bullied by everybody until his geekiness saves the day, and of course the effeminate sissy afraid to damage his nails but dons the best camouflage skills in the platoon. The original NS movie Army Daze had all that, and those horrible ‘misogynistic’ stuff too. In one scene, the word ‘sexbomb’ was used to describe a soldier’s girlfriend. Even the Indian recruit had an exaggerated accent.

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Resorting to bawdy humour is inevitable if you want to produce any sort of local army film given the constraints. Which is a waste as Jack could have pulled off something more ambitious without recycling the same old stock characters. You don’t need Jack Neo to EDUCATE young Singaporeans on what to expect in the army, just like you can’t prepare a woman for giving birth by watching ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. He’s a businessman first and entertainer second, and the trailer alone has formulaic product placement and government approval written all over it. I haven’t watched the film myself, but for all its alleged heartfelt pandering to Total Defence, I think it could have redeemed itself with some badass aliens or mutant zombies. Or maybe an angry horde of striking PRC bus workers. Otherwise I can’t think of any homemade action movie which involved anything beyond a car flipping over and exploding on cue. But there’s hope because Ah Boys to Men Part 2 is coming soon FYI.

Our boys, being moulded into THINKING SOLDIERS as part of the 3G philosophy, should know better. Not thinking about sex, that is. I’m not sure what’s a more dangerous misconception though; that our army is actually READY for bloody battle, or that it’s a MONASTERY that preaches equality to all humankind.

Postscript: Hoping to be proven wrong, I rented the Ah Boys to Men DVD. The slo-mo panning of SAF slogans as the boys walked through the ferry terminal to Tekong could give one nausea before even boarding the boat. The much hyped war scene was packed with special effects that could match high-octane monster films like MEGASHARK vs CROCOSAURUS. The cast, however, saved the movie and kept it entertaining. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel would have less propaganda and more character development, though a climax involving the Ah Boys learning to appreciate NS and becoming Best Buddies Forever seems to be a foregone conclusion.