Lift ban on Amir and Tsai Ming-liang films to give meaning to 50th Merdeka Anniversary

Cabinet Ministers should prove they are not “half-past six” — view Amir Muhammad’s Apa Khabar Orang Kampung and Tsai Ming-liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone to approve their release to demonstrate that the Abdullah administration is open and liberal and not an ostrich hiding its head in the sand.

The banning of both films when Malaysia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of nationhood sends out the clear message that Malaysia is not ready to have a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” culture and mindset that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had proclaimed as his top agenda.

The problem is not so much the people of Malaysia as the government, which is clearly not prepared to “walk the talk” and honour Abdullah’s various commitments — including to listen to the truth and to respect and even celebrate diversity of opinions and dissent.

The reason given by the Censorship Board for its ban of Apa Khabar Orang Kampung in that it is “historically incorrect” is most ludicrous, for it is in communist systems that there can be only one version of history and where personalities can overnight disappear from history books to become “non-persons”.

The motive behind the Censorship Board ban of I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone that it would be detrimental to the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 is even more ridiculous, as tourists will not come to Malaysia to see the film when they can view it overseas where the Malaysian Censorship Board’s ban does not extend.

In fact, the Censorship Board’s ban will give I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone additional attraction when it is screened overseas. The film is slated for release in Taiwan on March 23, Japan at the end of the month and in Singapore and the United States in April.

Tsai’s film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival last year and was also nominated for several Golden Horse awards in Taiwan, where the Sarawak-born director is based. The film received a seven-minute standing ovation in Venice.

If Cabinet Ministers are afraid to view both films, then let there be a viewing of both films by all MPs when Parliament reconvenes on March 19 for its fourth meeting for 23 days till April 26, 2007 so that MPs can debate whether it is more meaningful for Malaysia to celebrate half-a-century of nationhood by lifting the ban on both films or whether the ban on both films should symbolize a continuing immaturity and growing intolerance of diversity of opinion completely inimical to the Vision 2020 objective for an innovative, creative and talented Malaysian nation.

It will be very sad if the ban of Amir’s Apa Khabar Orang Kampung and Tsai Ming-liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone ends up in history as the most symbolic meaning of 50 years of Malaysian nation-building and Merdeka.

  1. #1 by azk on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 10:02 am

    This narrow mindedness of our malaysian film censorship board is exactly the reason why Indonesian music, art and films are much much better than ours.

  2. #2 by azk on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 10:10 am

    Malaysia will never move forward with this kinda “katak bawah tempurung” mentality. Politicians desperately clinging onto power to keep filling their own pockets are so so out of date. But then, this kind of stupidity is exactly what we need in them to take them out soon.

  3. #3 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 12:25 pm

    Diversity of the Arts, Freedom of expression are hallmarks of a tolerant and civil society.

    The silly bureaucrats seem to believe that all that is in print and film is the gospel truth and that Malaysians have no capacity to differentiate between truth and error. So very ‘katak’ (‘frog’) mentality.

    There are so many banned movies available in the night markets. Unreasonable censorship will only drive the products underground where the authorities will have little or no way of monitoring. Save and except it be pornographic or so injurious to public morals, the films and books should be exposed to the public. Let the public decide. We have to exercise our minds and strengthen our choices instead of being ‘told’ and ‘crammed’ down our throats.

    This is a globalised world, no longer an isolated kampung or an inaccessible village.

  4. #4 by pwcheng on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 1:10 pm

    Anything which they feel that it can have a threat ( don’t care how minuscule) to their political survival, they will not hesistate to ban it.
    Anything which can give some fortification to their political well being they will accept it, a good example is the sensitive speeches during the last UMNO Gen assembly. Have you heard them that they will ban such speeches?
    So it is clear that there are 2 set of rules with UMNO, one set for you and another for them.

  5. #5 by osaya on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 2:48 pm

    Uncle Kit, I’m glad you took this matter up because as an educated Malaysian, I was very offended by these latest decisions by the Censorship Board. Their weak arguments are insults to the public intelligence. If these people had it their way, the only program we get to watch is Sesame Street..

    oh wait.. perhaps that too might be deemed as “corrupting the people with the evil Western ways”..

  6. #6 by shortie kiasu on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 4:03 pm

    People do not even have the chance to view the “banned” films. So there is no opportunity for the poeple to comment on content of the “banned” films.

    What ever the censorship board said becomes unilateral opinion, no chance for dissent. That is worse than….

  7. #7 by lupus on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - 5:50 pm

    The question should be “Is the censorship board” representative of the majority or minority. Is the board a representative of a type of a “Democratic” Taliban society ? How are they deciding and who are they ?

    Does the board deem that the average Malaysia too stupid to decide what to watch? What if I make a documentary on Malaysian MP in action in the lower house – will they ban it too – too violent perhapes or too sensitive ? I will alway remember the LAT cartoon about the Board – why don’t they ban everyone else and just produce movies ?

  8. #8 by ihavesomethingtosay on Thursday, 8 March 2007 - 2:22 am

    The censorship board’s decision to ban both films is really mind boggling with fantastic claims:

    for Tsai’s film – bad image for the country “politically incorrect”

    for Amir’s film – historically incorrect

    we read from newspaper everyday on cases of robberies, corruption, racial tension and rapes, why not ban the newspaper as well since they are telling the tourist of this “politically incorrect” country of ours?

    I really think the censorship board owes us the tax payer a better answer.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 8 March 2007 - 9:51 am

    It is an unpalatable ‘Orwellian’ fact of Malaysian life that we have all kinds of paternalistic laws to protect our morals and our thoughts that proceed on the basic assumption that we are not matured enough to think, evaluate and differentiate on our own.

    From their actions, the censorship board appear like a faceless group of snipper happy people, not representative of broad spectrum of Malaysian society but who are nevertheless vested wide discretionary powers to interpret subjectively what is at best arbitrary guidelines, not reviewable by or accessible to public debate.

    Think tourists will be happy to come here, which at the time of celebrating our 50th Merdeka Anniversary still proceed on the assumption that our peoples are immature?

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