Wednesday 10 October 2012

Local film banned: Amy Cheong's fault?

Don't blame the Media Development Authority (MDA) panel for giving the rare Not Allowed For All Rating to the Singapore comedy Sex.Violence.FamilyValues on Monday, revoking the previous M18 rating and effectively banning it.

"An overwhelming majority of the panel members have expressed that the film should not be allowed for public exhibition in view of its overt racial references which are demeaning and offensive to Indians," said MDA.

According to The Straits Times report:

While the sacking of Ms Amy Cheong, an assistant director in the National Trades Union Congress, on Monday over her racist online comments was not mentioned during the panel's deliberations, there was a "general atmosphere" of heightened sensitivity.

This can be seen in the recent spate of racially offensive Facebook posts and tweets, and the public backlash that followed.

"From these, we can see that Singaporeans are not ready to accept comments about stereotypes," said Ms Cheryl Ng, the first vice-chairman of the Films Consultative Panel.

So it's Amy Cheong's fault.

If not for her, we could be not seeing the Ken Kwek short film by choice rather than because MDA is not letting us see it.

Before Amy Cheong, the racist jokes in the movie were okay.

But after Amy Cheong, the racist jokes in the movie are not okay.

So it's not the movie's racism that's offensive per se - it's the timing of it.

Well, you know what they say about comedy: Timing is everything.

Actually, Amy Cheong may have poisoned the well for racist jokes in local movies for a long time to come as MDA has decided that, based on the reactions to her comments, "Singaporeans are not ready".

By the way, when you call your little short film Sex.Violence.FamilyValues and release a trailer like the one above, you're pretty much daring MDA to ban you.

According to The New Paper, it was complaints about the trailer that led to the change in rating.

Having worked in Singapore media for almost 20 years, I've learnt that it's about what you can get away with. If nobody complains, you can get away with a lot.

After getting the M18 rating, the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers pushed their luck by releasing the trailer. People complained. So MDA had to act.

You can blame MDA if you want, but the producers also have themselves to blame for releasing the trailer.

Actor Adrian Pang, who stars in the movie, is quoted in today's Today newspaper as saying: "As someone involved in the project, I can say that there was not ANY hint or slither or smell of racial ill-will at all."

Which reminds me of this Amy Cheong quote: "What I said had nothing to do with race. It was about the situation."

Yeah, and some of my best friends are white supremacists.

Maybe like the movie's supporters, Ms Cheong can use satire as her defence.

COLUMN: The Amy Cheng conspiracy: Sex, violence & cheap weddings