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Tan Pin Pin fails in appeal against To Singapore, with Love classification

SINGAPORE — Filmmaker Tan Pin Pin’s appeal against the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) decision to classify the film To Singapore, With Love as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR) has been rejected.

The poster for To Singapore, With Love, which has won the director multiple international awards.

The poster for To Singapore, With Love, which has won the director multiple international awards.

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SINGAPORE — Filmmaker Tan Pin Pin’s appeal against the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) decision to classify the film To Singapore, With Love as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR) has been rejected.

Announcing its decision today (Nov 12), the Films Appeal Committee (FAC) said of its 12 members present, nine members voted to uphold the NAR decision — which prevents it from being distributed or exhibited in the Republic — while three voted for a Restricted 21 (R21) rating.

According to the FAC, Ms Tan had explained that the film, a documentary on Singapore’s political exiles, was intended to relate the personal stories and emotions of people who have been away from Singapore for an extended length of time, and she had attempted to provide balance to their views by using inter-titles and news clippings in the film.

The FAC also said Ms Tan acknowledged that she relied on press reports, but had not sought to verify facts with the authorities.

Although the film was of “commendable artistic standard”, the FAC said it found the film to be a “one-sided account with minimal attempts to provide a balanced mix of views” beyond those provided by the interviewees.

Given real people and events were featured in the film, viewers without sufficient knowledge and understanding of the historical context would take the views presented as the truth. “This would mean that acts of violence and subversion would appear justified to the uninitiated,” the FAC said. “Therefore, the FAC agreed that the film would pose a serious risk to Singapore’s national security by condoning the use of violence and subversion as a means to achieve political ends in Singapore.”

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post: "As the FAC pointed out, the film presents a one-sided account of the interviewees ... Even though the film is not banned, allowing it to be screened publicly would effectively mean condoning the use of subversion in Singapore. More importantly, it will be a great injustice and dishonour those who bravely stood up to the Communists in a fight to secure a democratic, non-Communist Singapore." 

Ms Tan submitted her appeal last month. In September, it was classified as NAR by the MDA, which said its content undermined national security.

Ms Tan has expressed disappointment at the FAC decision. In a Facebook post she wrote: "Censorship in the form of a restriction of access is never the way to assert one’s point of view. Singaporeans should be given the opportunity to view the film in public screenings, to weigh for ourselves different viewpoints about our past." 

Ms Tan added that she would be exploring different options regarding the film’s access including private screenings provided for under the NAR classification.

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