Actor Adrian Pang on Wednesday lashed out at authorities for banning a Singapore independent film just three days before its scheduled release in the city-state.
The Media Development Authority on Monday revoked the M18 classification of the satire film "Sex.Violence.FamilyValues.”, which was to start showing in Cineleisure Orchard on Thursday.
According to The Straits Times, “Porn Masala”, one of the three stories in the movie, was given a Not Allowed For All rating for "racial references which are demeaning and offensive to Indians".
In that short story, Pang plays a Chinese director whom the actor himself described as a “racist bigot”, and an “outright asshole”.
“It’s a real shame something like that which is a worthy piece of entertainment that was put together with a lot of care [and] made in Singapore cannot be shown in Singapore. I mean, hell, it has won an award in New York for goodness sake!” Pang told Yahoo! Singapore in a phone interview.
“It really highlights the sorry state of our TV and film production in Singapore. Already, we’re 20 years behind. This has thrown us another 10 years behind so we’re now 30 years behind. Well done!” he exclaimed.
The 46-minute film was initially given a M18 rating.
The film was later referred to Films Consultative Panel (FCP) for review following public feedback, MDA had told TODAY.
The paper reported that FCP vice-president Cheryl Ng cited a scene where a Chinese director was seen trading racial insults with an Indian porn actor, and said that the panel looked not just at national and racial stereotypes, but also at “comments flung around by members of different races at one another.”
Pang explained the rationale for the scene. “The story really is written specifically to highlight how bigoted this character is – the relationship between him and this other character played by Vadi [Pvss] and how just bare-faced racist the guy is,” he said, adding that Vadi’s character also gets a chance to retort to his character’s offensiveness in the film.
However, Pang asserted that the MDA ban missed the point of the film and was rather more of a “knee-jerk reaction” to the behaviour of the character he portrayed in the film.
Passing films such as “Borat” and “Tropic Thunder”, which he said could be viewed under the same light, then banning a homegrown film such as this, shows double standards, Pang noted.
The ban came unexpectedly, Pang said. He clarified that they never set out to make a contentious film, and that they did hope that as many people got to watch it.
“I think we embarked on it expecting that it would be viewed with the correct perspective of irony and being able to laugh at ourselves and being able to laugh at the film, at the story, at the characters perhaps, knowing full well that we’re laughing at it because we know that what this person is doing and saying is wrong.” he said.
“It’s politically incorrect and what he actually says, yes, it is offensive but the film itself is not offensive or racially abusive,” he stressed.
“[If] the powers [MDA] that be don’t think that Singapore audiences are mature enough or have enough self-esteem to be able to watch something like that and be able to laugh at it with a healthy perspective, then, wow, okay, I guess we need a lot of looking after,” he said.
Co-star Vadi Pvss who plays an Indian porn actor in the film and whom Pang respectfully refers to as a “hero” reiterated Pang’s stand.
“It was a satire with dark humour but with a strong message… but unfortunately in the climate that we are in, we must respect the MDA of its action as things can be taken out of context and blown out of proportion,” he said.
Directed by Singaporean filmmaker Ken Kwek, the film is a collection of "three dirrrty stories from the world's cleanest city" that "pitches political correctness out the window of Singapore mainstream cinema".
Gotham Screen International Film Festival 2012, where “Porn Masala” was screened there last year, has voiced out its support for the film. “The Bouncer”, one of the three stories, was also screened at the festival most recently last Saturday.
“The festival does not believe either of the films to be in any way ‘racist’ or ‘offensive’,” it said in a statement online.
MDA’s move to ban the film came on the same day Amy Cheong, an ethnic Chinese, was sacked as assistant director for membership at labour group NTUC for racist remarks on Facebook regarding Malay weddings at HDB void decks.
Pang noted that the incident is a hot topic, but that the film should be judged separately. “I think that we should also respect that we have enough intelligence and maturity to be able to distinguish between something that is truly, truly offensive and something that is a piece of entertainment that actually does have something to say,” he said.
Watch trailer here: