Penang cinemas pull plug on 'Tanda Putera'

This picture taken on August 27, 2013 shows a worker cleaning the floor in front of a poster advertising movie named 'Tanda Putera' at a local cinema in Kuala Lumpur. – AFP pic
This picture taken on August 27, 2013 shows a worker cleaning the floor in front of a poster advertising movie named 'Tanda Putera' at a local cinema in Kuala Lumpur. – AFP pic

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 29 — Penang moviegoers looking to watch “Tanda Putera” will have to go elsewhere after three major cinemas today scrapped the showing of the controversial film in theatres here following a “directive” from the state government.

Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) said today it had agreed to accede to the Penang government’s “directive” and will refund moviegoers who had purchased the tickets beforehand.

“In compliance with Penang State Government’s directive (as per letter by Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang dated August 28, 2013), GSC will not be screening the movie “Tanda Putera” in cinemas located in the state of Penang,” the country’s leading cinema operator said in a statement. 

The movie, which opens in theatres nationwide today, is no longer listed on GSC’s website, nor the websites of two other cinema operators, Tanjung Golden Village (TGV) Cinemas and Lotus Five Star Cinemas (LFS) for their Penang cineplexes.

However, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng denied that he had directed the cinemas to stop showing the Malay-language film in the state, saying his call yesterday had only been an “advisory”.

“The Penang State Government issued an advisory, not a ban and no action will be taken against any cinema operators in Penang who continue to screen ‘Tanda Putera’.

“Just like any travel advisory issued by the government for the safety of citizens travelling in strife-torn or dangerous countries, this advisory is issued to cinema operators to highlight to the public the dangerous lies in this film that can only threaten and tear the fabric of national and racial unity in the country,” Lim said in a separate statement.

The Pakatan Rakyat lawmaker, who is also DAP secretary-general, insisted that the state government will not stop anyone who wants to see the film in Penang but it had to take the step to issue the advisory.

“This is because the film has crossed a red line in using public funds to propagate lies that promotes hatred instead of racial harmony between the various races in Malaysia,” he said.

GSC said customers who had bought tickets for “Tanda Putera” in advance could claim a refund at its Penang box office counters from 5pm onwards today during its operating hours. Refunds would be valid for one week within the screening date.

The cinema operator urged its customers to contact its customer service at [email protected], during office hours, if they need more information regarding the refund.

A check of the GSC website showed that “Tanda Putera” was no longer listed in all three of its cinemas in the state.

GSC has three cineplexes in the state, which are located in three major shopping malls: Gurney Plaza, Queensbay Mall and Sunway Carnival.

A spokesperson from LFS said they received a directive from their headquarters that they stopped screening “Tanda Putera” today, the first show was initially slotted at 11.45am.

“We were told not to screen it as it was a directive from the state government so we stop the screening in Penang,” he said.

LFS has two cinemas in Penang, in Bukit Jambul Complex and Prangin Mall, TGV has two cinemas – First Avenue Mall and Aeon Seberang Perai Shopping Mall – while GSC has three cinemas – Gurney Plaza, Queensbay Mall and Sunway Carnival.

Yesterday, Lim had told a press conference that both councils had issued letters to Penang cinema operators requesting that they do not screen “Tanda Putera” in Penang cinemas.

He accused the movie of provoking racial sentiments and creating racial hatred.

“The film “Tanda Putera” was produced at a cost of RM4.8 million provided by the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) and the Multimedia Development Corporation (Mdec),” he pointed out.

Lim said the federal government’s sponsorship of the film can only be seen as a full official endorsement of the film, including fictitious scenes which the director admits are untrue but is explained as “creative license”.

“Creative license does not give anyone the license to spread lies that may cause racial disharmony and conflicts,” he said.

He said this raises questions whether by promoting racial hatred against minorities, blaming minorities as the source of all problems and even using the minorities is part of the justification and excuse for abuses of power and corruption.

“We issued the advisory due to our concerns that demonization of minorities in the film may lead to future brutalisation of their rights and that of any Malaysian who advocates universal human rights for all,”

“As a form of moral compass, this advisory is all the Penang state government can do to strongly object against a film that provokes racist sentiments and embodies racial hatred,” he added.