See’s film to be shown in Johor

Thursday • September 27, 2007

Zul Othman, TODAY

FILM-MAKER Martyn See, two of whose films were not allowed to be screened in Singapore, is looking to show his new movie at his country’s doorstep. In Johor Baru, to be precise.

The 26-minute effort, Speakers Cornered, will be screened there at this year’s Freedom Film Festival (FFF) on Saturday.

Organised by Malaysian organisation Community Communications Centre (Komas), it is also the country’s first human rights film festival.

Like Singapore Rebel, the subject of Speakers Cornered is Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan. This time, Mr See documents the politician’s three-day standoff with the police during a protest at Speakers’ Corner.

“I’ve not submitted Speakers Cornered to the local censors, and I’m still considering if I should do that,” Mr See, 38, told Today. “The documentary was made a year ago, and I was waiting for the opportune time to submit it. But Speakers Cornered is straightforward reporting with no commentary. So, what you see is what you get … If I don’t submit it to the authorities, I’ll put it on the Net and bypass the censors completely.”

Singapore Rebel was banned under the Films Act after it was categorised as a party political film, while Zahari’s 17 Years, his other movie, was deemed against the public interest. Both can be viewed online.

The latter is a 49-minute documentary that chronicles the life of left-wing journalist Said Zahari, who was jailed for 17 years for subversion.

Singapore Rebel

Said Zahari’s 17 Years

Speaking from Kuala Lumpur, FFF coordinator Effa Desa told Today Mr See’s latest effort received positive reviews when screened in the Malaysian capital on Sept 15 and in Penang on Sept 22 in conjunction with the festival. Both showings attracted 400 visitors.

Also getting rave responses at FFF are short films 24 Hrs, 15 and Cut! by homegrown movie director Royston Tan.

This is not Mr See’s first film at the four-year-old festival: Singapore Rebel and Zahari’s 17 Years were shown there in 2005 and last year, respectively.

He said such a film festival is important as it sets a positive precedent and hoped such an event would make an appearance here. “I would like to see a full human-rights festival here because we already have an informal coalition of people working on the human-rights mechanism for Asean … Besides, humans rights are slowly becoming not a dirty word in Singapore.”

It is certainly an interesting idea to explore, said Golden Village Cinemas managing director Kenneth Tan, 42. “I don’t think a festival with a human-rights theme would be a sensitive issue, since in general we have become an open society.”