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R21 rating for film on Marxist Conspiracy

SINGAPORE — In a move that has taken some civil activists here by surprise, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has given an R21 rating to a film about Operation Spectrum in 1987 — the so-called Marxist Conspiracy — and its screening at a film festival will go ahead as planned.

R21 rating for film on Marxist Conspiracy

A still from the film, 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy, which was made by independent filmmaker Jason Soo.

SINGAPORE — In a move that has taken some civil activists here by surprise, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has given an R21 rating to a film about Operation Spectrum in 1987 — the so-called Marxist Conspiracy — and its screening at a film festival will go ahead as planned.

The film, 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy, was made by independent filmmaker Jason Soo, and is part of the line-up at the FreedomFilmFest on Sunday (Nov 15). The Singapore edition of the festival is presented by civil activist group Function 8, in collaboration with Malaysian non-governmental organisation KOMAS, which conceptualised and held the first Freedom Film Festival in 2003.

Function 8 was informed of the MDA’s decision today (Nov 13). In light of MDA’s decision last year to bar Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love from being distributed or exhibited publicly here, the authorities’ decision came as “a pleasant surprise”, said Function 8 in a statement. “The censors must be applauded for taking such an enlightened stance.”

1987: Untracing the Conspiracy revisits the events of 1987, when 22 people were arrested under Singapore’s Internal Security Act, and accused of being involved in a Marxist conspiracy to establish a communist state. Featuring interviews with ex-detainees and political exiles, the film premiered in September in Kuala Lumpur, where it was awarded the Best Southeast Asian Feature at the FreedomFilmFest held there. It was submitted to the MDA for rating in October.

Last year, the authorities’ decision to classify To Singapore, With Love as Not Allowed for All Ratings was greeted with dismay by some here, with Singaporeans going to Johor Baru to watch the movie. The film also featured interviews with political exiles, among them Mr Tan Wah Piow and former Barisan Sosialis member Wong Soon Fon. Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said at the time the film was a “one-sided portrayal” that allowed former Communist Party of Malaya members and their sympathisers to “whitewash” what they did in the past.

In response to queries today, the MDA said: “MDA’s principle is that it judges each film on its own individual merits, presentation and context.”

Also screening at FreedomFilmFest are two films by Martyn See: Singapore Rebel and Speakers Cornered. Mr See and Mr Soo will be present at post-screening discussions today and tomorrow. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TOH EE MING

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