Support for Tan Pin Pin pulling film out of KL festival

Many are in support of Singaporean film-maker Tan Pin Pin's decision to pull her 2005 film documentary Singapore GaGa from an event due to be held in Kuala Lumpur next week.

The film-maker withdrew her film from the Singapore film festival, the closing event of Titian Budaya, a three-month long Singapore-Malaysia cross-cultural showcase celebrating 50 years of ties between the two countries.

The 55-minute film was to be screened in Kuala Lumpur from Jan 14 to 17 as part of a Singapore film festival showcase that includes Eric Khoo's 12 Storeys (1997) and Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo (2013).

She announced the decision on her Facebook page on Jan 3, after the Malaysian authorities asked for the Malay word for "animal" to be deleted from a scene in the film involving late ventriloquist Victor Khoo and his puppet Charlee.

The duo are entertaining children and tease them by calling them "binatang-binatang", or Malay for animals.

In her post, she quotes a translation of the censor's report, which was in Malay: "Erase (Victor Khoo) saying 'animals' in Malay and delete the subtitles of 'animals' which has a double meaning."

She also quotes them citing the film as a possible "security threat" and "disturbance of public peace and national defence" that could "create doubt and restlessness among citizens".

Among comments on her Facebook post, most are in support of her decision to pull her film from the festival. Multidisciplinary artist Ezzam Rahman, who was one of the commenters and also owns a copy of the film, tells The Straits Times: "I don't think anything is wrong, it's just a play on words."

The 34-year-old adds: "Some people are just reading too much into the connotations and innuendos."

But some like Mediacorp radio DJ Joe Augustin say in the comments on Facebook that the tone of the dialogue could be misinterpreted. In the comments, he writes that: "Calling kids Animals might cause people who may be more sensitive to that to be upset."

Ms Tan defends the scene as "good natured bantering" in which no offensive tone was used.

Private impresario CultureLink Singapore is co-producing the film festival with the Singapore Film Society and NM Cinematheque.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, CultureLink Singapore confirmed that their appeal to censors was not successful.

The film has been screened before in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur in 2006, but CultureLink Singapore's executive and artistic director Goh Ching Lee says: "Our understanding is that every film has to be submitted for a new event, even if passed earlier."

The company was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to conceptualise and produce Titian Budaya.

Another one of Ms Tan's works, her short film The Impossibility Of Knowing (2010), was also removed from a November event in the Titian Budaya line-up called Gems Of Singapore Short Cuts.

Singapore GaGa was rated PG and screened in Singapore without cuts. It has also played at international film festivals such as the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Bangkok International Film Festival.

•Additional reporting by Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Support for Tan Pin Pin pulling film out of KL festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe