Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Turning Off Village Radio

Of course I was teasing Amir Muhammad before the Berlin Film Festival and I introduced him at "Readings" by saying "And his next banned film is Apa Khabar Orang Kampong (Village People Radio Show)".

(After all, his previous film The Last Communist was banned last year, and he was exploring similar territory.)

And lo it came to pass. The Censorship Board gave 7 reasons for the ban, including that it shows the Malaysian government and former Prime Minister, Tungku Abdul Rahman in a bad light.

Who actually owns history? That's the really big question. Perhaps only a country fearful of its present tries to censor its past?

As Farish says:
It would appear that Malaysia is still suffering from growing pains, despite the fact that the country will celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence this year. After 50 years, and despite the fact that the MCP (Malaysian Comminist party) is practically non-existent in the country today, the ever-so-sensitive sentiments of right-wing nationalists will tolerate no alternative viewpoint contrary to their own; even if this means denying the fact that it was the MCP and its military wing that fought against the Japanese imperialist army during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War Two, and later the returning British imperialist army following the end of the war. Dubbed ‘terrorist bandits’ by the colonial power then, the MCP and its members have been steadily written out of the history books and the process of historical erasure continues unabated till today.
And we have seen how recent books have been withdrawn or lost for months in a "restricted books" limbo*, because they offered perhaps an alternative (and personal) account of how things happened during The Emergency.

Zedeck Siew writes about the ban on the Kakiseni website and the organisation Artis Pro Activ have issued a press statement.
This ban contravenes Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression. In any democracy the right to a different point of view is fundamental. A country cannot call itself a democracy and demand that all its citizens share a singular, official point of view. The Malaysian government must begin to accept that Malaysian citizens have differing views on many things and they have the right to voice those views. It is through healthy debate that we grow as a nation. That if 50 years after independence we cannot discuss our history then Malaysia is not an adult democracy but one still crawling out of the cradle. And it is decisions like this that keep us in the cradle.
I add my Mat Salleh voice to the protest, and hope that Amir's appeal is successful.

Because someone has to keep pushing at those boundaries, and I'm glad that Amir is brave enough to do it.

You can watch a trailer for the film at Amir's blog. The DVD of the previous film, The Last Communist, is on sale at

* I heard this morning that Faces of Courage has at last been released for sale ... almost a year after it was seized at Johor.


pedant said...

Good mornin' Sharon!

1. The English title is Village People Radio Show
2. The dvd on Amazon is The Last Communist rather than this one.


Kenny Mah said...

The English title is rather kitschy, I like. Oh, doesn't the Censorship Board realise this is free advertising for the film? The more you don't let us, the more we want to see it.

You can't put the good people down. Keep the faith, Amir!

bibliobibuli said...

pedant - v.sorry lah ... correcting

lil ms d said...

have faith amir. hero kena kalah dulu.

YTSL said...

Another Malaysian helmed film which has been banned: Tsai Ming Liang's I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE. The 8 reasons given for this is that in the film:-

1. Malaysians are cheating and abusing foreign labors
2. Locals are not caring enough and not taking care of people that fainted
3. Beggars everywhere
4. Haze in KL; people wearing mask
5. Poverty; people collecting thrash
6. Dirty living environment
7. Abandoned building projects
8. Illegal foreign labors everywhere

More than BTW, it, Amir Muhammad's APA KHABAR ORANG KAMPUNG, Yasmin Ahmad's MUKHSIN are among the strong Malaysian contingent of films being shown at this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival...

bibliobibuli said...

ytsl - thanks very much for the info. was sad i couldn't read the orig. source about the banning because it was in chinese but i found some info about the film and would really love to see it.

this banning troubles me every bit as much as the banning of amir's film. authors can get away with a lot more in fiction here ('cos no-one reads???) but the territory they explore (or should be exploring) is the same. the greater danger is of course self-censorship when really writers and filmmakers need to hammer away at issues. (it's what the arts are supposed to do - if they aren't edgy and dangerous, and asking questions, they aren't working!)

it's got to be fought. but who is fighting????

i'm just a mat salleh, with a bee in her bonnet about freedom of speech, listen to me at your peril!

Anonymous said...

minah salleh u mean?