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Once-Banned Film Shown in Singapore

April 15, 1999

SINGAPORE (AP) _ The 1982 hit film ``The Year of Living Dangerously,″ once banned in Singapore, will be screened in the city-state for the first time during this year’s International Film Festival, which opens Friday.

``We were a little surprised″ that the ban was lifted, festival spokesman Dave Chua said. ``I guess it’s a good sign. I hope that it indicates an increased openness.″

The film, directed by Peter Weir, is getting double exposure. On April 27, it debuts at the festival, and the Singapore Film Commission also plans to show the once-taboo movie as part of a program to inspire local filmmakers.

``The Year of Living Dangerously″ stars Mel Gibson as a journalist covering a failed 1965 communist coup in Indonesia, leading to the chaotic power shift between former presidents Sukarno and Suharto.

Film commission and festival staff said the movie had probably been banned for its unflattering portrayal of politics in Indonesia, a gigantic archipelago that nearly surrounds the tiny island of Singapore.

The film ``was banned initially because it did not meet the prevailing censorship criteria″ in 1982, the Films and Publications Department said today in a faxed response to questions. It made no mention of political sensitivities or any other factors.

The department approves or prohibits films in tightly regulated Singapore, a conservative Southeast Asian country with a reputation for strict censorship laws.

Asked whether the film’s approval signaled more openness or relaxed policies, the department said it still believed in maintaining ``high standards.″

``But censorship policy should not be static,″ it added.

Weir, the Australian director whose works include ``The Truman Show″ and ``Witness,″ is scheduled to personally present the film at the festival and commission screenings.

Weir is also set to give the inaugural talk for the film commission’s ``distinguished lecture series.″

Indonesia, still torn by the violent unrest that ended Suharto’s three-decade rule last year, is the country given special focus at the Singapore film festival this year.

In addition to ``The Year of Living Dangerously,″ films by Indonesians are to be highlighted.

``Kuldesac,″ a joint project by four young Indonesian directors, ``best represents the new wave in Indonesia with its feverish energy fueled by pop culture,″ a festival news release said.

Four films by controversial Indonesian director Arifin C. Noer are also scheduled for showing. Critics have labeled Noer, once a mainstay of the country’s cinema industry, as a propagandist for the Suharto regime.

The festival, which ends May 1, is to screen 250 films from 50 countries.

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