National anthem must be played in all Indian cinemas

Columns
Asia / Pacific Roundabout

India's Supreme Court on Nov. 29 ruled that forthwith the national anthem must be played in all cinemas prior to every film screening. According to newspaper reports, the anthem is to be accompanied by images of the national flag. The Supreme Court judges said in their ruling that the order should be enforced within ten days across the nation and that it would be compulsory for audiences to stand during the anthem.

The ruling now streamlines a practice that had previously been handled rather diversely at state government level. While most of India’s 29 states left it to individual cinemas to decide whether they wanted to play the anthem or not, a few other state governments had laws in place that demanded it from all theatres.

In an explanation of their ruling, Supreme Court judges were quoted in the Indian press as saying that “the people should discard individual notions of [personal] freedom and [instead] have a sense of committed patriotism.” But social-media comments on the ruling were pretty much split down the middle between supporters and opponents, with the hashtag #NationalAnthem trending highly on Nov. 30. “People go to theatres just for entertainment, not to prove that they’re patriotic or loyal to the nation,” tweeted a user under his nickname “vikixlr8.” On the other side of the spectrum and in an apparent attempt to placate opponents, user “manakgupta” tweeted: “So you can stand outside cinema halls to buy tickets, but you can’t stand inside for the #NationalAnthem (1 – 2 minutes)?”

Singapore IFF Concludes with Record Numbers

One of Asia’s foremost events for independent cinema, the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) came to a close on Dec. 4 after 12 successful days that saw a record number of almost 13,000 guests from the tiny city state and across the region attend its film screenings, symposiums, forums and master classes. This year, an unprecedented 161 feature and short films from 52 countries were screened publicly. There was also an increase of more than 50% in attendance for the master classes and talks, a testament to the growing support and interest towards independent cinema in a region usually dominated by big studio productions.

Absent Without Leave, acclaimed Malaysian director Lau Kek-Huat’s first feature-length documentary, received the Audience Choice Award. In his film, Lau explores the murky waters of Malayan history by drawing on his own family’s story. He gradually unravels the role his grandfather played as a Communist guerrilla during World War II, fighting the Japanese invaders—and subsequently the British during the chaotic “Malayan Emergency” period that followed in what was then still British Malaya.

Reflecting on the successful festival, SGIFF executive director Yuni Hadi said: “Stories bring people from all walks of life together, and [they] remain as the cornerstone of filmmaking. This year, we continued to gather many diverse stories told by the region’s talents and provided a platform that allowed our audiences to both enjoy the films and expand their perspectives on filmmaking. We are encouraged by the strong support from the film community and our partners who helped enable a successful 27th edition of the festival, and hope to continue growing the pride and interest in independent cinema in the years to come.”

Speaking on behalf of the festival organizer and host, Angeline Poh, deputy chairman of the Singapore Media Festival Advisory Board and assistant chief (content and innovation) of the Infocomm Media Development Authority, added: “This year’s SGIFF celebrated the best of Asian storytelling with its stellar lineup of excellent films from Singapore and the region. The SGIFF continues to be an integral part of the IMDA’s Singapore Media Festival. It enables our filmmakers to share their heartfelt stories with an international audience and inspires the next generation of storytellers.”

China Deletes Scene from Miss Peregrine

In yet another incident of film censorship, China’s State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) has apparently effected the deletion of an entire controversial scene from Tim Burton’s latest film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Local distributor Twentieth Century Fox China revealed at the film’s advance screening in Shanghai on Nov. 30 that the violent “monsters’ eyeball feast” scene had been completely removed from the film because SAPPRFT had deemed it “too frightening for Chinese audiences.” But speaking during the pre-screening event, Sirena Liu, Twentieth Century Fox China’s managing director, was quoted by Chinese news website china.org.cn as saying: "We can see the innocence and beauty from the eerie characters [Burton] created in his unique style. In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children we can also read many metaphors like the declaration of personality, the view of love and some controversies. But this is still the one and only Tim Burton." The director’s dark and foreboding fantasy film is based on Ransom Riggs’ 2011 novel of the same name.

Presumably because of censorship proceedings, the film’s release date in China was rescheduled twice, but the movie finally premiered on Dec. 2. Despite the major cut, Chinese audiences have reportedly been flocking to cinemas for what to them must seem to be a rather special treat. Apart from Alice in Wonderland (2010), none of Burton’s earlier works were ever cinematically released in the country and people only can watch them on DVDs or online."I've seen many of [Burton’s] classics online, but now I have a chance to finally pay him back with a film ticket," quipped Chinese actress Qi Xi, a self-confessed fan of the director’s visual style, on social media.

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thomas.schmid@filmjournal.com.