SINGAPORE - The Singapore film Apprentice has been passed uncut and given an M18 classification by the Media Development Authority.
This has come as a surprise to many in the film community, who expected that the drama about a young prison officer taken into the confidence of an executioner would get a milder PG13 or NC16 classification.
An M18 rating means that only those 18 or older can view the film, therefore reducing the size of its audience.
On the MDA's Films Classification Database web site, the film is described to have "detailed depictions and descriptions of the execution process".
Films with depictions of the death penalty have been awarded a range of ratings in Singapore. The biopic Dead Man Walking (1995), for example, has a PG rating. The home video version of The Green Mile (1999) is rated M18, but the version released in cinemas at the time had a PG rating because it had been edited to fit PG requirements.
The film, directed and written by Boo Junfeng, was honoured at this year's Cannes International Film Festival by being selected for the Un Certain Regard section.
In response to The Straits Times' queries about Apprentice's rating, a spokesman for the MDA gave the following response: "Apprentice was rated M18 as it contains mature content including detailed descriptions of the execution process, as well as depiction of an execution. This is reflected in the consumer advice so that the public can make a more informed decision."
The film has been made with help from the MDA, in the form of a production assistance grant, a development assistance grant (for script development) and a Film Mentorship Initiative, which helps pay for costs related to going overseas for training.
The story is told from the viewpoint of a young prison officer Aiman (Singapore actor Fir Rahman), who becomes friends with older officer Rahman (Malaysian veteran Wan Hanafi Su). He turns out to the prison's hangman. Aiman is drawn into a conflict that pits family loyalties against a growing affection for his new friend. The film also stars Suria channel regular Mastura Ahmad as Aiman's sister, Suhaila.
Film-maker Boo Junfeng, 32, who is in Sydney this week for the Sydney Film Festival's screening of his work, sent a response by email.
"I was hoping Apprentice would get at most PG13 in Singapore, considering it's rated PG for its release in France. I believe MDA gave it a lot of consideration, and M18 was the best it could offer."
The producers also told The Straits Times that they do not plan to appeal the rating as they want to release the film without further delay.
Apprentice will be in cinemas from June 30.