Let's recap. Film-maker Martyn See made a film about opposition figure Chee Soon Juan and landed himself in hot soup. Currently he is under police investigation for making a "party political film", a criminal offence under the Films Act. A group of film-makers then wrote to the ST Forum saying that the legal definition of "party political films" was too vague and requesting that the authorities clarify its scope.
Our dear Leong Ching starts making snide remarks about these film-makers. She suggests that they are either stupid, or trying to act stupid, and in any case, are simply not "savvy film-makers". After all, Leong Ching sniffs:
"When it comes to guidelines, there will always be room for
interpretation and manoeuvre by film-makers."
To prove the "cleverness" of her own point, she refers to two local films. "Tak Giu" and "I Not Stupid", she notes, poked fun at the Singapore authorities but escaped punishment:
The film, called Tak Giu (to 'kick ball' in Hokkien), records his attempts to find a public field where he and his friends can play football for free.As I said earlier, Leong Ching simply misses the point. Tak Giu might very well have gotten into trouble for being a party political film. I Not Stupid might very well also have gotten into trouble too. Both film-makers took the chance and as it turned out, the gods were kind and luck was on their side. What Leong conveniently forgot is that when I Not Stupid was first released, Jack Neo himself said that he feared that he was going to run into serious trouble with the Singapore government.
Many establishment figures, from town council officials to officious policemen, came in for a roasting.
The 22-minute film has achieved a cult following on the Internet. It was downloaded 1,500 times a day for three weeks.
Some people would say that this is a different kettle of fish, since Mr Tan's film is not about a political party or a politician.
But think of Jack Neo's film, I Not Stupid. Most people would agree it is 'political' because of the pointed comments it makes about the education system here. Like Mr Neo, Mr Tan also uses humour to make his points.
These two films show that savvy film-makers know how to work around the Films Act to make their point.
Like Tan and Jack Neo, Martyn See also took a chance. Luck, however, was not on Martyn's side. Right now the police are on his case (see here for the definitive story, and NO, this is not a link to the insipid Straits Times). This is the problem with the Films Act. It is too vague. The environment is impossible for film-makers if they have to be perpetually making guesses as to the authorities will or will not tolerate.
To her credit, Leong Ching does make one salient observation about permissible local films. On the makers of Tak Giu and I Not Stupid, Leong Ching notes:
"Like Mr Neo, Mr Tan also uses humour to make his points.
These two films show that savvy film-makers know how to work around the Films Act to make their point."
I feel that this is a pertinent observation. And I also feel that it is a very sad point. Leong Ching suggests that as long as your film stays comedic, cute and funny, you'll probably be permitted to comment on politics. However, the moment you try to make a serious film about politics - you've drastically increased your chances of being thrown into jail.
And that is sad. Even if Leong Ching still doesn't get it.
"What do you mean, my film is banned in Singapore?"