Friday, June 03, 2005

Film Act--- Void Deck interview

This is the interview done by Void Deck on the issue on Film Act.

The Void Deck Interviews Goh Meng Seng on Political Films

TVD - People get the impression that CNA "Up Close" officially not political film, but unofficially is one. Wat is a political party film in your opinion? When it is made by a political party or its members? hehe or....When the Pappies say it is one?

GMS - It is not just about "people's perception", it has been "written into law" that such double standards are acceptable to the PAP govt.

One must try to understand why the film act is amended to include "political" film in the first place. Audio-Visual presentation is a powerful political tool of propagada. PAP used to have monopoly over it through the national media. The entry barrier for video/film production was pretty high in the past due to cost factors but the technological advancement has lowered such barriers and provide almost equal opportunities for everyone, especially those in partisan politics, to make use of this powerful media.

Thus, I think PAP attempted to prolong their monopoly of this powerful tool, and they have to amend the film act to prevent their opponents to utilize this form of marketing tool to equal their standing. This basically means that in my view, they do not believe in equal, level playing field.

The primary objective of the political film act is to prevent opposition parties from producing films that introduce their own parties. However, PAP has put great discretionary power onto their own minister and govt by stating that any films sponsored by the govt or approved by the minister would be exempted by the Act! This is the inherent double standards installed into the film Act. Such great discretionary power also put films made by individual film makers at the mercy hand of PAP govt! It has widen the scope of "political film" to potentially any films that criticize PAP that it doesn't like!

In view of the Singapor Rebel film vs the Up Close done by CNA, there is practically no difference between the two in terms of content concept except that Up Close is being screen through the TV station! So why should Singapore Rebel be discriminated? You could try to test out the law and expose such double standards by doing the same thing that MDA has done, lodge a police report on CNA's Up Close and see whether they will investigate CNA on producing such features or not.

In a truly democratic society, there isn't a need for any govt to restrict political films or advertisement at all. US and Taiwan are good examples. For the following link, you could find Taiwan DPP's website which they have one section dedicated to all the past political advertisement they have done over the years.

As for what constitute a political film, I think almost any film that touches on social-political issues may be considered as political films. If one starts to define political films narrowly as some films produced by political parties, then I would say that's basically a technique used to discriminate and victimize individuals that have chosen the partisan path. This is against the spirit of our constitutions that state that everybody should be treated equally.

TVD - Have you watched Singapore Rebel? hehe from the Internet? Wat you think of it? Is it so controversial that Pappies scared we watch it we dun vote for them or spoil our vote or vote SDA, SDP, WP (not in order of preference)?

GMS - I have watched Singapore Rebel from the internet. For one who wants to make use of the political film Act to silence or restrict its opponents' access to the powerful audio-visual tool as it has enjoyed, it will definitely want to kill off such production. For any serious academic, one may view this as a documentary of the historical development of Singapore's politics.

There is nothing controversial about the film. It is basically a film that recorded the various (political)events that have happened to a local politician in Singapore. The only possible "controversial" about the film is that it has challenged PAP's monopoly of the powerful audio-visual media.

TVD - SDP keep denying in their website Martyn is SDP member, they fight for him and ironically instead draw more negative Pappy attention to him! How do you think the investigations against Martyn See will turn out? Wat is best way of handling the matter if you had a say?

GMS - Martyn, as I know him, isn't a member of SDP. SDP may feel obliged to "fight" for him basically because he got into "trouble" making a film on SDP SG, Dr. Chee. But in my opinion, it is unwise for SDP to jump the gun and shoot off from its hip. There are two perspectives in this issue:

1) Help Martyn to get out of legal trouble.

2) To raise public awareness of the unfair law (i.e. Film Act)

Partisan "connection" is the least desirable element that Martyn needs now. We should leave the issue on KIV instead of making press statements over this. We should not try to gain political capital out of other people's plight.

If the police, after their investigations, wanted to charge Martyn for breaching the film act, then we could act on this issue. There are a few options or approaches which I will not want to reveal here for strategic considerations.

TVD - When now can upload films in the internet, with the gahment trying to be more open, with people more educated and can decide for themselves, do you think the party political films act should be reviewed or even repealed?

GMS - The political film act shouldn't be there in the very first place! It should be scrapped totally if PAP govt is sincere about creating a more open society! The film act should instead include films that would potentially create racial tensions or hatred. Or any films that are made to undermine Singapore's National security. The act itself should be very specific about the scope and aim of defending the society's interests, instead of a political party's interests.

TVD - If Pappy so insecure abt totally allowing political films, should there be a classification for party political films? Or could there be censorship as well? Or become like R(A) films?

GMS - PAP could claim that we are "matured" enough to decide for ourselves whether to go for casino gambling, but not matured enough to view political films or advertisement?

There isn't a need to have a special classifications basically because those below 21 years old would not have the chance to vote. Political advertisement doesn't have any ill effects at all. And it would only be good to educate the young of political-social issues, letting them to have alternative source of perspectives and views on various political-social issues, rather than subjecting them to the one and only one "National education" process! This would make them more narrow in outlook and perspective in general!

TVD - Any concluding thoughts or things we left out?

GMS - The issue of Martyn See's Singapore Rebel in contrast to CNA's Up Close is a good educational process for all Singaporeans.

We aim to be a HUB for everything, including film making and TV stations. But look at the draconian and strict Film Act in totality and you will know that there are many outdated laws in it, in veiw of the great accessibility of equipment and competition in the global film market. Read about it in Martyn's website:

It is time for Singaporeans to see clearly how unfair laws work in Singapore. It is time for Singaporeans to think for themselves, what kind of "Open Society" PAP has promised us. It is time for Singaporeans to think for themselves, whether they would allow their children or future generations to live in such an "open" society as promised by PAP. If they are unhappy about it, they could either choose the easy way out by taking the option of emigration or they could play a part to change the whole direction of our society's development.

No comments: