The Media Development Authority (MDA) has banned Singapore film director Tan Pin Pin’s work “To Singapore, With Love”. It is classified as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR).
In a statement issued by MDA on 10 September 2014, it has assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals.
“The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore and remain outside Singapore. A number of these self-professed “exiles” were members of, or had provided support to, the proscribed Communist Party of Malaya (CPM)… One of the interviewees in the film claimed that he had no choice but to join the CPM after he left Singapore when in fact, he was an active CPM member even before he left Singapore. Indeed, as another interviewee who left Singapore in similar circumstances admits, a number of Barisan Sosialis activists then were already members of the Malayan National Liberation League, the CPM’s political wing, before they fled Singapore with its help and subsequently joined the communist guerrilla forces…The individuals featured in the film gave the impression that they are being unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore. They were not forced to leave Singapore, nor are they being prevented from returning. The Government has made it clear that it would allow former CPM members to return to Singapore if they agree to be interviewed by the authorities on their past activities to resolve their cases. Criminal offences will have to be accounted for in accordance with the law…” stated by MDA
Under the Film Classification Guidelines, films that are assessed to undermine national security will be given an NAR rating.
Short Synopsis from Tan Pin Pin
To Singapore, with Love is a film about Singapore political exiles some who haven’t been back for more than 50 years. The exiles ruminate about their lives away from home. Its a portrait of Singapore, from the outside.
Director Tan Pin Pin attends a funeral in the hills of southern Thailand, a family reunion in Malaysia and goes for a drive through the English countryside, searching the world for the displaced souls of Singapore: different generations of Singaporean political exiles who have not been able to come home. Some have not returned for 50 years. She finds out how they have lived their lives away and how they still view the Singapore of their dreams. As they recount their lives to us, we see a City that could have been. A love letter to Singapore, shot entirely outside the country.
The film was screen last year on the 6 October at the Busan International Film Festival in the Documentary Competition and was made with the support of the Asian Cinema Fund, Busan International Film Festival, who also supported Invisible City (2007).
In the film’s Facebook Fanpage, the director, Tan Pin Pin posted a statement.
To Singapore with Love (2013) was slated to screen with my other films Invisible City (2007) and Singapore GaGa (2005) at the end of September 2014, in a triple-bill presented by National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum, an institution that I have had a long working relationship with in relation to my previous films.
Now the screenings will not take place.
I am very disappointed by the MDA decision — for myself, and also what it means for Singapore. Like many of my other films, To Singapore, with Love took shape organically. I was making a video about Singapore’s coastline from afar. In the process of researching the idea of being outside, I stumbled upon Escape from the Lion’s Paw (2012), a book of first-person accounts by Singapore political exiles, people who remain outside the country, but not by choice. I decided to interview one of them in Malaysia. I was so moved by her account that I decided to change focus and To Singapore, with Love was born. Like my other films mentioned above, this film is a portrait of Singapore; unlike the others, this film is shot entirely outside the country, in the belief that we can learn something about ourselves by adopting, both literally and figuratively, an external view.
For this film, I traveled to England, Malaysia and Thailand to interview the exiles to find out how they have lived their lives away from Singapore. Some have not been back for more than 50 years. They talk about why they left, but they mostly talk about their lives today and their relationship with Singapore. They show us the new lives they have created for themselves. One shows us around his noodle-making factory, we visit the law firm of another and play with the children of yet another exile. We also attend the funeral of one of them. Finally, we observe a family reunion that takes place in Johor Baru, the twinkling lights of Singapore a short distance away. The focus is on their everyday lives. These exiles all have different ideological positions and are of different ages; some are communists, others are activists from the Christian Left, yet others are socialist politicians or former student activists. But their feelings for Singapore is intense and heartfelt, albeit sometimes ambivalent, even after so long away. Those feelings (more than the circumstances of their exile, or even the historical “truth” that led to such exile) are what my film predominantly focuses on, because I feel that many viewers might relate to those feelings.
I made this film because I myself wanted to better understand Singapore. I wanted to understand how we became who we are by addressing what was banished and unspoken for. Perhaps what remains could be the essence of us today. I was also hoping that the film would open up a national conversation to allow us to understand ourselves as a nation better too.
I am therefore very disappointed that my film is banned. By doing this, MDA is taking away an opportunity for us Singaporeans see it and to have a conversation about it and our past that this film could have started or contributed to. It is vital for us to have that conversation on our own terms, especially on the eve of our 50th birthday. We need to be trusted to be able find the answers about ourselves, for ourselves.
It is my deepest regret that we cannot have such a conversation here today. That conversation did start when some Singaporeans saw it at film festivals overseas. Some of the reactions include; “Tender and searching” “Extremely moving and thought-provoking” and “A Must see”. Now, the irony that a film about Singapore exiles is now exiled from Singapore as well – this is not something I ever wanted or hoped for.
I hope to be able to show it in Singapore one day, and may re-submit for a rating in the future.
Tan Pin Pin
10 September 2014