Friday, July 14, 2006

Not Another LKT-like Casualty: Danny Lim's 18? Axed From Seoul Film Festival

Even though I'm in the science stream, arts and films fascinate me a lot. Especially controversial ones.

And here's yet another controversial 18-minute documentary to face the axe from our very caring gomen, even at overseas. From theSun:

Award-winning film pulled out of Seoul
by Llew-Ann Phang

PETALING JAYA: What's behind the documentary 18? that it had to be vetoed by the Malaysian embassy in Seoul from being screened at the EBS International Documentary Festival (EIDF) there?

Festival organisers Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) had to close the curtains on the award-winning documentary by Danny Lim after the embassy rejected it for featuring an "antigovernment political activist".

The embassy's choice for the festival's Five Nations Fair, being held from Wednesday to tomorrow, is Hisham Abdullah's 45-minute Songs of Change which tells the story of Kelantanese dikir barat activist and tukang karut Halim Yazid.

Lim, who is a senior writer with Off the Edge, said the festival director informed him of the embassy's objection late last week.

Lim said that even though former exiled activist and Internal Security Act detainee Hishamuddin Rais appeared in the documentary, he did not make any political statements.

EIDF executive director Gunny Hyoung had asked Lim to submit 18? after it was recommended by film maker Amir Muhammad, of The Last Communist fame.

Lim's two-year-old 18-minute documentary tries to unravel the mystery behind the street art graffiti that popped up in Kuala Lumpur, bearing messages such as, Legalise ganja, Ada apa dengan National Service? (What's with National Service?) and Pertahankan Hak Asasi (Defend Human Rights).

Gunny told theSun yesterday the Five Nations Fair, to foster goodwill, was a collaboration with foreign embassies and documentaries required their approval before being chosen for screening.

Gunny liked 18?, saying "I thought the whole idea was really brilliant".

He confirmed that the embassy had objected to it because of a political activist's appearance.

"I am not familiar with the political situation in Malaysia but we screened The Last Communist on Wednesday and the embassy complained about it as well," he said.

The embassy, replying to questions emailed to it, denied that EBS required its approval to feature any documentary.

"Your assumption that this embassy has the power to veto Danny Lim's 18? is without basis," it said.

"In discussions with EBS, this embassy had suggested some particular documentaries which feature Malaysian theatre and art forms to be shown.

"The focus was on cultural and touristic elements which have a broader outreach here in Korea. The preference for cultural and touristic elements and films which had scenic backgrounds was made in the context of promoting Visit Malaysia Year 2007."

Wisma Putra's External Information Division said it had rushed five RTMsourced documentaries to the embassy at their request because "the Malaysian films the EIDF had were deemed not appropriate for screening."

"We did not watch the Malaysian documentaries but the embassy was looking for something involving Malaysia's progress, lifestyle or culture, with no political or negative elements, and we tend to agree with that," she said.

And here's some synopsis and description on the documentary:

Danny Lim's "18?" - Citizen Graffiti in Malaysia

What is 18? This mysterious number is but one of a prominent crop of graffiti that has popped up around the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Sprayed at strategic urban spaces and applied with a seemingly socio-political agenda, the 18? graffiti and its like (eg "Legalize ganja", "Ada apa dengan National Service?", "Pertahankan Hak Asasi", etc) brazenly takes its place alongside advertising banners and billboards in our urban sightlines.

What does it mean? What is it selling? Why? Who did it? 18? - the documentary - attempts to uncover the mystery behind the graffiti.

18? is the runner-up in the amateur category of the 2005 Freedom Film Fest.

Benjamin McKay's review of the 2005 Singapore International Film Festival for Senses of Cinema website has this to say about 18? (in the final para): "But in concluding this report let me just mention one more short film that rose up and hit this reviewer in the face at SIFF 2005, for the film itself better answers the question I so arrogantly pondered, and the good news is that you the reader can share this little gem with me, for in the spirit of the film, it has no copyright. I am talking about Malaysian director Danny Lim's 18? (2004), a film that in a quirky 18 minutes takes us to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to investigate the search for the space to criticise and to create and along the way addresses several interesting questions about who an artist might well be and what role art may have in a critical engagement with a given society. Download the film for free at his website.

And here's some of the awards won:

18? wins Gold in the Short Film: Documentary award of the 10th Malaysian Video Awards.

18? is the runner-up in the amateur category of the 2005 Freedom Film Fest.

Thanks to Youtube, now you could watch the documentary here. It's kinda long but worth the watch.

Or you could download the full documentary here.

Yes, Hishamuddin Rais and DSAI were featured in the documentary. Oh, and TM too.

My question:

Is Malaysia only worthy for Gila-gila-like films?

So, when's Swifty coming out with something like this? ;)

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