The maker of a film banned by the Singapore Media Development Authority (MDA) last month is appealing the initial ruling, which came under scrutiny after plans to show the documentary for educational purposes at Yale-NUS fell through.
Tan Pin Pin announced in a Facebook post today that she had submitted her film, “To Singapore, with Love,” in its original, un-edited form, to the MDA’s Film Appeals Committee. In its first review, the MDA deemed the film a threat to national security, grading it with a “Not Allowed for Ratings” mark that prohibits the film’s public screening and distribution in Singapore.
“As we approach our 50th birthday, I feel that we as a people should be able to view and weigh for ourselves, through legitimate public screenings in Singapore, differing views about our past, even views that the government disagrees with,” Tan said in a statement posted to the film’s Facebook page on Thursday.
Yale-NUS administrators said they planned to show “To Singapore, with Love” in one of its film courses after receiving permission from the MDA, which sometimes allows exceptions in educational settings. But Tan announced soon afterwards that she would not allow the film to be shown at Yale-NUS, adding that administrators never asked for her permission. The college then canceled its plans to screen the film.
Political Science lecturer Jim Sleeper, who has published a number of articles protesting censorship in Singapore, said he was pleased to hear that Tan is “rightly confronting” the MDA and seeking a reverse on the ban.
“The filmmaker has made her intentions clear by saying rescind the ban—she is not going along with Yale-NUS’s original strategy, which was to carve out an exemption for Yale-NUS for educational purposes… she’s saying rescind the ban for everyone,” Sleeper said.
Sleeper added that Singapore will lose public favor if the MDA refuses to lift the ban in response to Tan’s request. He added that many Singaporeans have already traveled across the border to Malaysia just to view the film.
African-American Studies Professor Christopher Miller said that the clamor surrounding the film’s availability reveals the limits of academic freedom on the Singapore campus.
“Whatever the outcome, we have already learned something about Yale-NUS from this affair: that they are, as some of us predicted, beholden to the MDA, the censorship board of Singapore,” he wrote in a Thursday email to the News.
Sleeper’s most recent article on the subject was published on Friday by the Huffington Post, titled “Let Singapore’s Apologists Do Their Homework.”