Asia-Pacific

Shortbus unbanned in South Korea

South Koreas Supreme Court overturned a ban on the 2006 film, Shortbus on Friday. The film had originally been banned in 2007 for its depiction of homosexuality, group sex and sadism.

As a whole, the film cannot be regarded as simply lewd material with little artistic value. Therefore the decision to restrict its screening is not legitimate, the court said in a statement.

The ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions in favour of artistic freedom of expression.

In July last year, the Constitutional Court ruled as unconstitutional one provision in the censorship laws saying its ambiguous terms could cause too many movies to be restricted.

Singapore to ease ban on political films

Singapores government announced on Friday that the state will start to allow documentary and biographical party political films that are objective and do not distort facts. An independent citizens panel will be set up to pass the films. The move comes as part of a cautious acceptance of most of the recommendations made by a council it appointed to study the impact of new media.

On political content, the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (Aims) had recommended that the current wide-ranging ban on party political films be liberalised in stages.

Minister for Information Communication and the Arts Lee Boon Yang agreed. As a first step, films that are factual and not based on a distorted presentation of ideas will get the green light as early as March, he said.

Mr Richard Magnus, a retired Senior District Judge, will chair the political films advisory panel, which will be made up of prominent, non-partisan citizens as recommended by Aims.

Such films may be shown by political parties during an election, and they may also advertise using podcasts, vodcasts, blogs and other new media tools in election campaigns.

The Government has, however, rejected the suggestion that they decriminalise the making of party political films in general. It also turned down the suggestion that it spell out clearly the reasons for a ban on a film considered to be against the public interest under Section 35 of the Films Act which empowers the Minister to prohibit any film.

Pre-emptive censorship in Burma

Mizzima (via The Melon Farmers) has picked up an announcement from Burmas Information Ministry that makers of films and documentaries will need to seek prior permission from the Censor Board before seeking to show their films in international film festivals.

The film censorship board has issued a new order. All films and documentary makers must seek permission before contesting at international film festivals, a film director in Rangoon said on condition of anonymity.

According to sources in Rangoon, the new regulation was implemented after director Kyi Phyu Shin won the 2008 Best Short Film Award of the National Geographic Society with her 15 minute-long documentary on the life of a Burmese painter called Wathone. The English-subtitled film is called Scathes of Wathone and includes interviews with the painter.

Rebalancing the past

The Philippine Court of Appeals has affirmed (via The Melon Farmers) the order prohibiting the showing of former President Joseph Estrada’s biopic Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa in a 13 page ruling. The court said that the documentary could be allowed for public viewing if it was “balanced” to recognize the legality of the Arroyo presidency.

In the decision penned by Associate Justice Arcangelita Romilla-Lontok, the CA noted the film is an actual narration of the life of Estrada as a young boy, a movie actor and a politician, but a portion of which “consists of analysis, commentaries and conclusions of the producer/narrator.”

“The portion entitled ‘Power Grab’ by its descriptive appellation, connotes illegal seizure of power purportedly by the present President,” the CA said.

The CA ruled that the bioflick claiming an illegitimate government on public television is politically sensitive and runs contrary to the Supreme Court ruling that declared legal the assumption of power of President Arroyo after Estrada was ousted from office.

Public Perception Management Asia Inc. (Publikasia), had applied for an exemption for review before the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in 2006 on the basis that the film is a compilation of newsreels. The MTRCB refused the exemption request, saying that the film was a documentary. Once they had reviewed it, the MTRCB declared that the film was “unsuitable for exhibition.”

Publikasia eventually took their appeal – unsuccessfully - to the Court

Beijing blocks Taiwan Film

Cape No. 7, Taiwans most successful film in years, has earned more than $6.9 million since its release on Aug. 22 and become the islands second top-grossing film after Titanic. The film is about a a failed Taiwanese rock musician who returns to his small coastal hometown and is forced to play in a hastily assembled amateur band that will open for a Japanese pop star. He falls in love with the Japanese publicist overseeing the show.

It was due to be released in China by the end of December, but local media are reporting that these plans have been axed, or delayed, by the Government Information Office (GIO).

Copies of the film should have been sent to the Chinese distributor by November 20th, but on November 19th, the Taiwanese distributor received an e-mail requesting a delay because discussions still had to be held with customs and with the local distributor.

The film appears to have caused some discomfort among Chinese officials over its portrayal of relations between Taiwan and Japan and some have claimed to be worried about a “nationalistic backlash” in the mainland.

According to The Associated Press:

Chen Yunlin, a senior Chinese official in charge of relations with Taiwan, said the movie was tainted by its portrayal of Taiwanese who had been subject to colonial brainwashing, Taiwans United Daily News reported on its Web site Monday.

Reached by phone Monday, Yuan Wenqiang, general manager of China Film Groups import-export arm, said company officials were discussing the movie with government film censors.

The process is ongoing, he said.

Cheng Wen-tsang of Taiwans Democratic Progressive Party said that censorship would make it difficult for Chinese to learn about Taiwan’s democracy and pluralistic society. Although Chen Yunlin had a smile on his face during his visit to Taipei, his reaction to the movie showed his real face, Cheng said.

Indonesian artists protest against film ban

Radio Australia is reporting that Indonesian artists have protested in the central Javanese city of Solo after police shut down production of a film about the mass killing of communists and others during the mid-1960s.

The protestors accused the police of bowing to pressure from Islamic hardliners, saying the authorities should be protecting the film makers from intimidation.

Islamic militant groups have accused the films producers of promoting Communism.

The film focuses on events surrounding an alleged coup in 1965, blamed on the now outlawed Communist Party. Up to half a million people were killed in the aftermath of the events. The killings were attributed to the military and its anti-Communist allies, which included a number of Islamic groups.

Malaysian blogger released

Malaysian blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin, who was detained in September under the countrys controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), has been released.

The ISA was created in the 1960s as a means to protect the country against communist subversion. It allows the government to detain people it considers a security threat for two years without trial and renew the sentence indefinitely.

Raja Petra had applied for a writ of habeas corpus seeking release. The court ruled there were not sufficient grounds for his detention and his arrest under the ISA was unlawful.

Other ISA detainees include MP Teresa Kok. who was jailed for one week after she was accused of campaigning for a mosque to lower the volume of its call to prayer

Malaysias New Straits Times reports the government wont dispute the court decision.

Seditious blogging trial opens

The Guardian (via) reports that the trial of Malaysian blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin behgan today. The British-born 58-year-old is already being detained - without trial - under the Internal Security Act and faces a further three years in prison if found guilty

Blogger detained for two years

Raja Petra Kamarudin, the editor of Malaysia Today who was arrested two weeks ago is to be detained (via) for two years under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act.

The detention order was signed on Tuesday by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar on the recommendation of the police, who claimed that his postings on Malaysia Today were “was prejudicial to the security of the country.”

While under detention, Kamaruddin will be obliged to undergo religious indoctrination rehabilitation.

Malaysia blogger arrested

Raja Petra Kamarudin, a prominent internet campaigner was arrested on Friday amid a crackdown on dissent. The blogger is being held under the countrys controversial Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

His arrest comes a day after the countrys army chief warned people not to make remarks that could damage race relations. Raja Petra is accused of posting an article that insulted Islam.

He was detained by police at his home near Kuala Lumpur, two weeks after his anti-government website Malaysia Today was closed down. The countrys Interior Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, claimed that he had been arrested because his writings somehow posed a threat to national security.

The detention has sparked fears that the freedom to publish online currently enjoyed by Malaysians is about to end. Within hours of Raja Petras detention, an ethnic Chinese journalist was reportedly arrested and a wider crackdown is feared.

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