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IMDA refuses classification for local film #LookAtMe for denigrating religious community

SINGAPORE — Local film #LookAtMe has been disallowed from being aired in Singapore because of its potential to cause “enemity and social division” here.

Singaporean director Ken Kwek, the director of #LookAtMe, attends the seventh day of New York Asian Film Festival at Furman Gallery Film at Lincoln Center in New York on July 22, 2022.

Singaporean director Ken Kwek, the director of #LookAtMe, attends the seventh day of New York Asian Film Festival at Furman Gallery Film at Lincoln Center in New York on July 22, 2022.

  • Local film #LookAtMe has been disallowed from being aired in Singapore
  • The authorities said in a joint statement on Monday (Oct 17) that the film “denigrates a religious community”
  • The film depicts the protagonist who made a social media post on a pastor's stance on homosexuality
  • The pastor is also depicted engaging "in an act prohibited by his professed religious faiths"
  • The team behind #LookAtMe said it is "disappointed" and will be appealing the authorities' decision

SINGAPORE — Local film #LookAtMe has been disallowed from being aired in Singapore because of its potential to cause “enemity and social division” here.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA) said in a joint statement on Monday (Oct 17) that the film “denigrates a religious community”.

#LookAtMe indicates in its opening frame that it is "inspired by true events", the authorities said.

It depicts a protagonist who is offended by a pastor’s stance on homosexuality and makes a social media post about the pastor. The post then goes viral, leading to a series of events that adversely impacts the protagonist and his family. 

The film, directed by filmmaker Ken Kwek, then depicts the protagonist plotting a revenge attack on the pastor, and the pastor engaging “in an act prohibited by his professed religious faiths”, said the authorities.

“Various descriptions of the pastor, including a similar sounding title, are suggestive of a real pastor in Singapore. Persons in Singapore may draw that connection.

“The allegations may be perceived to be offensive, defamatory and contrary to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, in that it may be seen as unfairly attacking a religious figure, as well as cause offence to religious beliefs.”

The statement added that the movie could suggest or encourage violence against the pastor.

“In arriving at its decision, IMDA had sought the views of its advisory committees and was guided by the Film Classification Guidelines.”

The guidelines state that “classification should be sensitive to the concerns of different racial or religious groups and the need to safeguard racial and religious harmony”. Films that fail to do so will be refused classification.

In response to queries, an IMDA spokesperson said that authority takes up to 30 working days to classify a typical film.

"However, films which require further consultations and/or deal with subject matter which are more sensitive require a longer time for assessment," the spokesperson said.

After the film's rating is finalised, IMDA will then inform the applicant or filmmaker.

The last time IMDA had refused to classify a movie was in May earlier this year, for Indian film The Kashmir Files.

IMDA said then that it had de facto banned the movie for its “provocative and one-sided portrayal of Muslims and the depictions of Hindus being persecuted in the ongoing conflict in Kashmir” which could cause enmity in Singapore.

In response to media queries, the team behind #LookAtMe said it is "disappointed" by the decision and will be submitting an appeal to IMDA.

"The film seeks to entertain and encourage conversations on important social issues that are relevant to Singapore," the team said, adding that the film is a "work of cinematic fiction".

With the film selected to be screened at the upcoming Singapore International Film Festival in December, Mr Kwek and his team hope that IMDA will reverse its decision before that.

"We hope Singapore residents are given an opportunity to see this film," they said.

TODAY has asked if the team plans to amend the movie to meet IMDA's guidelines.

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IMDA MCCY MHA

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