KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 ― The public release of the “Tanda Putera” film that deals with the May 13 race riots has been put off indefinitely and now may hit the silver screen after the next general election, say sources.
The Malaysian Insider understands that senior government officials and the Najib administration did not want any distractions and potential flashpoints in the run up to the polls, which is likely to be held in the first quarter of 2013 after the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysian 2.0 (BR1M) is paid out.
The RM4.8 million film, financed with public funds, was first due to be released last September 13 but it was later pushed to November 17.
“There is too much controversy about the film and the authorities have decided on a later release date,” a government source told The Malaysian Insider.
One source added the government had no say in the script although it financed the film that had caused an uproar over the unflattering portrayal of people based on several opposition leaders.
“Putrajaya just wants to head off a potential problem. The people’s feelings are more important than the film production company,” he said.
“Tanda Putera” depicts second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and his deputy, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, during the post-May 13 period. It was produced by Pesona Pictures Sdn Bhd in collaboration with the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), which provided the financing together with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDEC).
Abdul Razak’s eldest son, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is the current prime minister.
The film’s director, Datuk Shuhaimi Baba, confirmed yesterday that the film will not be screened on November 15 as previously planned.
“No screening, because (the) Nov 15 (date) has been cancelled. The new date will be in 2013. There is no more slots for this year,” Shuhaimi told the Malaysiakini news portal in a text message.
But she and producer Aida Fitri Buyong declined to state the reasons for the postponement.
“It is better if this matter is referred to the FINAS director Naguib Razak or (Information, Communications And Culture Ministry) secretary-general Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf for reasons (for the delay),” Shuhaimi said.
A focus group had previewed the film in July while its online trailer received considerable brickbats over some of the scenes depicting May 13. Shuhaimi had previously denied claims that the release date for the film was linked to the general election.
Last week, Putrajaya had defended its approval of “Tanda Putera”, saying it felt it was necessary to remind Malaysians of the bloody tragedy in 1969.
Deputy Minister Senator Datuk Maglin Dennis D’Cruz told the Dewan Rakyat on October 23 that the government believed that with the level of maturity of today’s youths, such historical events should be depicted in a most “effective and realistic” manner.
“Although it touches on a sensitive racial issue, the May 13 tragedy has become an important incident that Malaysians must take heed of and use as an example of how important racial harmony is to the country,” he said during Question Time.
He also gave his assurance that the government, through FINAS, reserved the right to reject any film production that violates the guidelines of local censors.
Shuhaimi had denied that “Tanda Putera” promoted a pro-Malay agenda or that it featured a character based on DAP lawmaker Lim Kit Siang who was portrayed in a negative light in scenes depicting the May 13, 1969 race riots, as suggested by some Umno blogs to the chagrin of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders.
Earlier this year, an administrator of film-makers Pesona Pictures’ Facebook fan page had posted a photograph of Lim being “manhandled”, with a caption asserting it was taken after the opposition leader allegedly urinated on the flagpole in the then-Selangor mentri besar’s residential compound in Kuala Lumpur before the May 13, 1969 riots.
The picture was removed last month, after personal attacks and threats were allegedly made against the cast and crew of “Tanda Putera”.