Did the tiger lose its stripes in its homeland?

AN artist who receives no honour from her own homeland but is cherished, celebrated outside her motherland. The saying is certainly true with the producer of Tiger Stripes, Amanda Nell Eu.

If ever there is a birthday wish, Eu would have wished for more freedom for local artists instead of “being dictated on what we can or cannot show and limiting artistic voices in Malaysia which is detrimental to our society.”

Marvel it that Eu’s first film had bagged the Grand Prize at the Film Festival Critics’ Week in Cannes but back home, the film that made the debut yesterday (Oct 19) on the silver screen is a version that has been “heavily censored”.

Taking it on X social media, journalist Emmanuel Samarathisa quoted Eu saying, “I am here to state that the film that will be shown in local cinemas is not the film that we made”.

The local artist and filmmaker bemoans the censorship that people like her have to go through having their work and voice censored by the Censorship Board.

“What has been censored from the film is the very joy of being a young girl in Malaysia,” lamented Eu. “A young girl who is maybe different from the rest, misunderstood or has the urge to express herself different from others – a young girl who is innocent and curious about the world around her and fights for her existence in the world.”

While she respects the different opinions and sensitivities in the country, but “we wish we had more freedom to discuss things openly and not quickly condemn and punish each other or have to hide away from things that we are afraid of”.

“Art,” she said during the movie launch preview, “is why we deeply love it and continue to pursue it in our lives – to discuss, question and express freely.”

When Eu started the Ghost Grrrrl Pictures together with her producer Foo Fei Ling, she had wanted some form of creative freedom that allows her work of art to flourish.

Amanda Nell Eu (far left) with the cast of ‘Tiger Stripes’

“We will continue to deal with censorship in our country – it’s a huge struggle, we know, emotionally and financially, and not to mention sometimes our safety is jeopardised because of this,” she enthused.

Eu opined that art is a platform to open up healthy discussions where people can hear from diverse voices and stories. “We believe and respect that the Malaysian audience has the maturity to make decisions based on their own critical choices,” she asserted.

Although knowing that her statement made during the media conference would hurt their company and many parties involved, Eu said: “For that, we are truly sorry but we also believe in our right to share our opinions involving the freedom of our voice and expression as Malaysians.”

According to Eu, Tiger Stripes will represent Malaysia in the 96th Academy Awards for the Best International Feature Film category. It is also set to open this year’s Singapore International Film Festival from Nov 30-Dec 10.

Like many well-known artists from the past who made it big, perhaps Eu would have to wait till she dies before her film becomes a hit in Malaysia or will it?

The local Film Censorship Board under the purview of the Home Ministry is made up of qualified Malaysian citizens. They represent the view of the general public on a movie before it is put on the big screen.

Nevertheless, it would be worth watching Tiger Stripes in cinemas even though it is “heavily censored” to support our local artists. – Oct 20, 2023

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