×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Language and Censorship Stir Singapore Filmmakers

The title of the panel discussion at the Singapore International Film Festival on Saturday was innocuous enough – Singapore cinema: Then and Now – but the filmmaker panelists chose to speak about subjects close to their hearts, especially the use of the Hokkien dialect of the Chinese language and censorship.

The panelists included Ghazi Alqudcy, whose debut feature “Temporary Visa,” shot entirely in Bosnia Herzegovina is currently in post; Wesley Leon Aroozoo whose first feature documentary “I Want To Go Home” premiered at Busan and is also playing at SGIFF; and filmmaking couple Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, who are now based in Taiwan.

“Money No Enough” (1998), written by and starring Singaporean superstar Jack Neo was a seminal film for these filmmakers. “Money No Enough” was a game changer in terms of language and representation,” said Woo. For the first time, audiences, including the filmmaker panelists could hear Hokkien and Singlish on screen. “It was mind blowing. I thought, why don’t more movies and TV sound like this,” said Woo.

The Singapore authorities have a policy where only a limited amount of Singlish and Hokkien are allowed in local films and television. Goh believes that language should be natural and not in “perfect English.”

Inevitably, the conversation turned to censorship. Goh and Woo had a surprisingly positive experience with Singapore’s film classification authorities on their film “Talking Cock the Movie” (2002), a comedy that Goh describes as being inspired by “Chunking Express” and “Kentucky Fried Movie.” The film was based on a popular website that was atracting three million hits a month, long before the era of social media.

The film had several swear words in Hokkien that Goh and Woo bleeped out and replaced with bird sounds. But the censors wanted them deleted. “The censors told me that the audiences can lip read,” Goh told the appeals board. “I told them that if the audiences can read them, then they know the words already. I am not the one corrupting them.”

That was a battle that Goh and Woo lost. But they won another one. There is a sequence in the film dealing with Sikhs that the censors wanted cut. Goh and Koo screened the film for leaders of the local Sikh community and got a letter with their approval. “The censorship battle was useful because the censors were not as rigid as I thought they would be,” said Goh.

Saturday’s panel ended with the sober reflection that films with R21 ratings cannot be exhibited outside downtown Singapore. That deprives producers of the ‘heartland’ market, where the vast majority of Singaporeans live and watch movies.

More Film

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are partnering on an untitled monster movie from “Kong: Skull Island” [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Buddha in Africa

    More than Half of Films at Hot Docs Film Festival Are Directed By Women

    More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women. In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world [...]

  • Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office

    Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office Market Share

    Korean distributors are having to fight ever harder for their share of Korea’s theatrical market share. Threats on the horizon include a slide in the performance of local movies, consolidation, the arrival of new players and the challenge from streaming services. South Korea’s theatrical box office is now bigger than that of France or Germany despite [...]

  • Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in

    Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in Saturated Market

    In 2018, the Korean film business stumbled, as local films made with blockbuster budgets and targeting the usual high seasons of Chuseok and Christmas last year failed to deliver blockbuster earnings.  So Korean distributors have embraced some tactics to enhance their bottom lines.  Genre films “Monstrum,” “Fengshui,” “The Negotiation,” “Take Point,” “Swing Kids” and “Drug King” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content