SINGAPORE: Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that the recent reclassification of a film by the Media Development Authority (MDA) from Mature 18 (M18) rating, to Not Allowed For All Rating (NAR), is an isolated case.
Speaking in Parliament, Dr Yaacob gave a detailed account of why the film "Sex.Violence.FamilyValues" was initially passed by the MDA and then removed just before it was due for screening.
Dr Yaacob said in December last year, the MDA classified Porn Masala, one of three films in "Sex.Violence.FamilyValues", M18 as it had assessed that the film was a satire on racial ignorance and stereotyping.
The rating was accompanied by a consumer advice for coarse language and racial stereotyping to enable viewers to make an informed choice.
In late September this year, MDA decided to consult the Films Consultative Panel (FCP) after receiving strong public feedback about the use of racist language in an online trailer for the film.
The FCP comprises members of the public, representing different age groups, races, religions and professions, including those with knowledge about the film industry.
Dr Yaacob said 24 FCP members viewed the film in its entirety.
Out of the group, 20 felt that while the film may be a satire, there were specific comments which were offensive and demeaning to Indians, to the extent that the film should not be given a rating.
"Only four members felt that the film could be allowed under an R21 rating. None of them agreed with MDA’s initial M18 rating," Dr Yaacob said.
In view of the recommendation by an overwhelming majority to disallow the film for all ratings, Dr Yaacob said the MDA decided to revoke the M18 classification and classify it as NAR.
The minister said in practice, the FCP has not, after reviewing cases referred to it, reached fundamentally different conclusions from MDA.
He added the MDA will continue to evaluate the treatment of theme, content and context when classifying films, and this includes recognising that satire and parody should not be interpreted literally.
Dr Yaacob said it is not possible to consult the FCP for all films as it classifies more than 13,000 titles a year.
The FCP is consulted in two instances.
Firstly, when it encounters titles which may be potentially contentious and insights into community sentiments would help in arriving at an appropriate classification.
Secondly, when there are complaints received about previously classified films.
In classifying films, Dr Yaacob said the MDA seeks to reflect prevailing community standards.
The MDA’s classification decision is not final.
The film distributor can appeal to the Films Appeal Committee, whose decision is final.
Dr Yaacob said: "In classifying films, the MDA has a delicate task of balancing the interests of different segments of society who hold diverse and opposing views. I am sure that in this particular case, had the FCP agreed with MDA’s M18 classification, the filmmaker would not have welcomed a request by the complainants to allow only a limited screening.
"If, during such a limited screening, the audience was offended by the film, and MDA then acted against the FCP’s opinion to change the classification, I am sure the filmmaker would object most strenuously."
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