A local film titled #LookAtMe, has been banned from screening in Singapore, being deemed with “the potential to cause enmity and social division in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) as well as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
After reading about this news, some Singaporeans, however, are saying that although they had never even heard of the film before the ban, they now find themselves wanting to watch it even more.
Though Singaporean director Ken Kwek’s new film #LookAtMe premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival back in July, it has now been banned from screening in Singapore due to what officials see as its potential to cause division and discord.
The film shows how its protagonist deals with his offence over a pastor’s stance on homosexuality, as well as the discrepancy between what the pastor preaches and his actions off the pulpit.
Authorities said that the film has the potential to cause enmity and social division in Singapore because the pastor preaches against homosexuality but engages in behaviour that goes against his religious teachings.
“Various descriptions of the pastor (including a similar sounding title) are suggestive of a real pastor in Singapore, officials said in a statement. “Persons in Singapore may draw that connection. The context may be seen to be suggesting or encouraging violence against the pastor.”
In the film, the offended protagonist publishes an “incendiary” post about the pastor online, and it goes viral. He is also portrayed to plan an attack on the pastor in the name of revenge.
The implications of the “inspired by true events” frame at the beginning of the film, coupled with the protagonist’s openly disclosed intentions to use violence to attack the pastor, are what the officials say is the point of concern.
“The allegations may be perceived to offensive, defamatory and contrary to the (Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act), in that it may be seen as unfairly attacking a religious figure, as well as cause offence to religious beliefs,” they said.
Mr Kwek and the filmmakers have expressed their disappointment over the decision, calling the film a “work of cinematic fiction” that aims to encourage relevant conversations regarding social issues in Singapore. “It features top filmmaking and acting talent from Singapore and beyond. The film premiered in July at the New York Asian Film Festival, where it was in competition for Best Feature and won a Special Jury award for Best Performance,” they said.
As Singaporeans have caught on to this news online, some have called the situation an example of the Streisand Effect, which is a phenomenon in which attempting to hide information actually increases its spread.