‘Tanda Putera’: Film-makers speak up for freedom of choice

File photo of a worker cleaning the floor in front of a poster advertising the movie 'Tanda Putera' at a cinema in Kuala Lumpur. – AFP pic
File photo of a worker cleaning the floor in front of a poster advertising the movie 'Tanda Putera' at a cinema in Kuala Lumpur. – AFP pic

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 30 — Film-makers have come out to criticise the “advisory” by the Penang state government to cinemas here not to screen “Tanda Putera”.

Describing the action as a blow against freedom of choice, film-maker Ho Yuhang said it harmed the very liberties that the DAP espouses.

“DAP is not like Umno who can just speak out against a movie and have it taken off the cinemas like in the case of ‘The New Village’, so I hope we don’t go down this route where we have non-Umno political parties acting like Umno,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

He urged DAP leaders, including Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, to watch “Tanda Putera” before seeking to block the public from viewing the film.

“They can’t criticise something based on other people’s complaints, DAP is not like Umno and when you start issuing ‘advisories’ like this, you are trying to stop it from being shown just like Umno,” he said, referring to Penang’s advisory to cinema operators in the state on Wednesday.

Ho was also critical that political parties are trying to tell moviegoers how they should “feel” about a movie when viewers should be left to form their own opinions about the movies they watch.

The award-winning director, known for his internationally acclaimed movie “Rain Dogs” and “At the End of Daybreak”, criticised the way DAP leaders are attacking “Tanda Putera”.

“If they think it is all lies and fiction, then why are they frothing at the mouth over the movie? Their reaction has made the film seem more real than it actually was,” he said.

Ho and another film-maker, Amir Muhammad, said local films approved by the Film Censorship Board, should be screened in local cinemas, especially if they have been listed under the National Film Development Corporation’s (FINAS) Compulsory Screening Scheme.

Ho criticised the way DAP leaders are attacking ‘Tanda Putera’.
Ho criticised the way DAP leaders are attacking ‘Tanda Putera’.

They said this extended to both “Tanda Putera”, which opened yesterday, and “The New Village”, whose screening was suspended earlier this month pending a review triggered by allegations that the movie glorified communist insurgents from the Malayan Emergency.

“The scheme is a good way to protect our local industry or else we will never be able to compete with Hollywood movies so films like ‘The New Village’, which was also under the scheme, should be screened just like ‘Tanda Putera’ was screened today,” Ho said yesterday.

Amir went on to state that cinemas that do not comply with the mandatory screening scheme should be dealt with severely.

“This applies to all local films that get it, including the latest Namewee film,” he said in a text message to The Malay Mail Online.

The FINAS Compulsory Screening Scheme, introduced in 2005 to help local film-makers gain a larger audience, provides that all cinemas in the country must show the films under the scheme in their largest screening hall for no fewer than 14 days.

They may demote the screening to a smaller hall if audiences fail to reach 30 per cent of capacity for four consecutive days. They may also discontinue screening at their discretion if less than 15 per cent of the hall is filled for three days in a row.

The scheme is open to any film made by a local company or a joint-venture production in Malaysia.

On the advisory, Amir said the Penang state government has provided tremendous support to the local arts scene in the past years and hoped that it would continue to do so.

Amir said cinemas that do not comply with the mandatory screening scheme should be dealt with severely.
Amir said cinemas that do not comply with the mandatory screening scheme should be dealt with severely.

Three major cinema operators — Golden Screen Cinemas, Tanjung Golden Village Cinemas and Lotus Five Star Cinemas — have complied with the “advisory” and pulled the movie from their listings in cinemas in Penang.

“Tanda Putera’s” director Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba on Wednesday warned that cinemas doing so risk having their permits revoked by FINAS.

The DAP’s main criticism of the movie is one particular scene.

The offending scene became the focal point of controversy last year when an administrator posted on Facebook a photograph ostensibly of the scene along with a caption: “Lim Kit Siang telah kencing di bawah tiang bendera Selangor yang terpacak di rumah menteri besar Selangor ketika itu, Harun Idris, (Lim Kit Siang had urinated at the foot of the flagpole bearing the Selangor flag at the then Selangor MB’s Harun Idris’ house)”.

Ho said he has watched the controversial Malay-language film and found it undeserving of all the attention.

“I have watched the movie, I personally think it is a lousy film in all aspects but still, in the end, it is just a film,” he said.

He pointed out that Shuhaimi can label it as “historical” or “science fiction” or even as a “cartoon” and it would not make a difference.

“A film is a film, so regardless of what a director labels it, at the end of the day it is still just a film,” he said.