Malaysian Home Ministry ban approved documentary

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Malaysian documentary The Last Communist was passed without cuts by the National Film Censorship board in March. Ten days before it was supposed to start screening, the Home Ministry retracted the approval.

The film made its world debut at the Berlin Film Festival 2006 without filmmaker Amir Muhammed in attendance. It also appeared at the Seattle International Film Festival 2006 and the London Film Festival 2006. It has been reviewed favorably in Variety and UK's Sight & Sound. Sight & Sound called the film an "essayistic delight" and of Amir Muhammed "the only visible heir to the Chris Marker tradition."

The ban comes after Berita Harian, a conservative Malay daily, printed a series of articles critical of the film and the Censorship board. In the first article, the reporters ask government ministers and professors to comment on the impact of the film. The response is wholly negative.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad issued a retraction of the approval on May 5, 2006. Deputy Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho described the reasons behind the ban as, "the public was not very happy about the movie."

Neither the Berita Harian journalists nor their sources had seen the full movie. The article misstates that the film glorifies "the communist leader" when Chin Peng is mentioned only once throughout the film.

At the request of opposition Parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, the documentary was screened for ministers of Parliament. Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said, "The plot isn't controversial and there's nothing that could be deemed as offensive from the cultural viewpoint." Lim Kit Siang called the movie, "an eye opener for all".

On Monday, 22nd May, Radzi announced that in the annual meeting of the UMNO supreme council, in June, the government is scheduled to decide whether to keep the ban on the film, or let the people decide.

At the time of the ban, Radzi had not seen the film either. Official homepage