An internationally acclaimed Malaysian filmmaker would have been elated to know that her movie would be screened across Malaysia, which would be an apt way of sharing her joy and the fruit of her artistic labour with others in Malaysia.
But the Grand Prize winner of the Cannes Critics’ Week, Amanda Nell Eu, instead chose to distance herself from her film Tiger Stripes, which had been greenlighted by the Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board for screening.
She has disowned her own film after it was reportedly heavily cut by the censorship board to the extent she felt it was no longer the movie she had made and that had won the Cannes award.
Presumably the message of the film might have been distorted by such invasive snips.
Tiger Stripes tells the story of 12-year-old Zaffan (played by Zafreen Zairizal) struggling with puberty. She discovers the freedom of embracing herself in the midst of community pressure.
It is generally the nature of censorship to cut the content, which can skew or disrupt the storyline as well as diminish its artistic value. The impact of censorship is often felt by a film that tries to challenge conventions or present uncomfortable truths that many people prefer to ignore.
Therefore, it is understandable that an artiste like Nell Eu would not want to be identified with a creative product that has been tampered with and one she can no longer be proud of. Her reputation was at stake.
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Agreeing to the screening of the censored film would have been tantamount to insulting herself and the arts, while freedom of artistic expression is being curbed in the process.
The authorities’ permitting of the screening of a heavily censored version of the film is not exactly a nice way of honouring and celebrating the pride of the people of Malaysia.
We are talking about the kind of treatment meted out to a person who has scored many points, especially on the world stage.
Tiger Stripes is Nell Eu’s first feature film, and she is the first woman in Malaysia and first Southeast Asian director to win the €10,000 (RM49,622) Grand Prize award at the Cannes Critics’ Week, a parallel section of the prestigious festival.
The privilege to judge the movie should be accorded to the audience in Malaysia, particularly film aficionados, without having to dumb them down with a sanitised version. Healthy discussions about movies are instructive in the interest of the wider society.
This is arguably the best way to educate film-goers about artistic creations and to help to grow the local film industry.
It was reported that the authorities have officially chosen the film to represent Malaysia at the 96th Academy Awards (the Oscars) in the Best International Feature Film category.
Malaysians are now left wondering whether the original or the censored version of the film will be selected for the Oscars in the this category.
Either way, it would suggest that the government has no compunction about taking pride in a film that it has seen fit to cut and which version has been disavowed by its creator. – The Malaysian Insight