Interest in exile film up after curb

Restriction here spurs some to catch it overseas

Some Singaporeans are planning to travel to Johor Baru to watch a little-known documentary film on Singapore's political exiles, with one student organising a chartered bus service for the event.

They were spurred into action by the Media Development Authority's (MDA) decision to disallow public screenings of To Singapore, With Love here.

The MDA said its contents "undermine national security" and classified it as Not Allowed for All Ratings. That means the film, by local filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, 44, cannot be shown in public or distributed here.

Among those whose interest has been piqued by the MDA's action is sales manager Louis Khoo, 30: "I didn't know about the film before MDA made its decision. And now that we're told we can't watch it here, everyone wants to watch it."

Ms Tan's film is based on interviews with nine Singaporeans who fled the country and now live in Britain and Thailand. The film premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea last October, and has played in Berlin and the US.

The MDA said the people featured in it gave distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave and remain outside Singapore, and "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 film will play at film festivals in India, the Philippines, London and Taiwan this month and next month.Some students in London, like Royal College of Music undergraduate Nabillah Jalal, are planning to watch it with friends when it plays there at the SEA ArtsFest in October.

"The entire saga of exiling a film about being exiled is stirring some interest - and rebellion - in me," said the 22-year-old. "But it's also a chance to look at perspectives we rarely see."

The film is now on a four-city tour in Malaysia. It played in Petaling Jaya last week and will go to Johor Baru, Kuantan and Penang. Next Friday, clerk Charmaine Lee, 28, will drive with a group of friends to Johor Baru, where the film will be shown at Malaysia's annual Freedom Film Festival.

More than 100 people have registered their interest to attend the screening. Ms Tan yesterday posted on the Facebook event page that the current venue can hold only 150 people. If more register, the organisers may switch to one that can hold 400.

Yesterday, Mr Lim Jialiang, who studies at Nanyang Technological University, created a sign-up form for people who want to take a chartered bus to JB for the show. There have been offers to sponsor two buses, said Mr Lim, 24.

Yesterday, the MDA elaborated on its previous day's remark that a "purely private" screening is allowed. Its spokesman said: "Whether a screening is private will depend on many factors, including how these screenings are planned and conducted and who is permitted access.

"For example, a screening of a film to one's own family members or personal friends could be private screening if no other person is permitted access."

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