Film on detainees to be screened today

A documentary on detainees arrested over an alleged Marxist plot against the Singapore Government in 1987 will be screened at a festival today under the R21 rating, a decision that has surprised festival presenters, who were expecting a ban.

The fate of independent film- maker Jason Soo's documentary 1987: Untracing The Conspiracy, submitted for classification last month, was up in the air until it received the nod from the Media Development Authority (MDA) just a day before the start of the festival yesterday. The film will be screened at The Projector in Beach Road.

Last year, MDA gave To Singapore, With Love, local film-maker Tan Pin Pin's documentary on Singapore exiles, a Not Allowed for All Ratings classification, barring it from exhibition and distribution here.

So the MDA's decision this time comes as a pleasant surprise, said civil society group Function 8, which is presenting the Singapore leg of the Freedom Film Festival.

But Mr Soo told The Sunday Times: "Why R21? In 1987, the TV confessions were broadcast on prime-time television without any ratings, and even children could watch the ex-detainees talk about the alleged Marxist conspiracy. So I don't understand why an R21 rating is deemed necessary when it wasn't necessary in 1987."

The Government detained 22 people in 1987 under the Internal Security Act for their role in an alleged Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the Government and establish a Marxist state. This crackdown was known as Operation Spectrum.

Mr Soo's hour-long film features interviews with political exiles and former detainees involved in the alleged plot, focusing on the first 30 days of their detention.

His film has been screened across the Causeway as part of the annual Freedom Film Festival, which is organised by Malaysian human rights group Komas.

The Singapore leg of the Freedom Film Festival is the biggest yet, with 13 films. The event is non-ticketed and the line-up includes regional films as well as two by Singapore film-maker Martyn See.

Speakers Cornered, which documents a protest at Hong Lim Park during the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting in 2006, has been rated NC16. The other film by Mr See - Singapore Rebel, on opposition leader Chee Soon Juan - has been rated M18. The film was pulled from the Singapore International Film Festival in 2005.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Film on detainees to be screened today'. Print Edition | Subscribe