Tiger won't change its stripes

Mustafa K. Anuar

Amanda Nell Eu’s feature film debut 'Tiger Stripes' is the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Cannes International Critics' Week. – Movie poster, October 22, 2023.

* Commentary by Mustafa K. Anuar 

AN internationally acclaimed Malaysian filmmaker would have been elated to know that her movie would be screened across Malaysia, which would be an apt way of sharing her joy and fruits of artistic labour with fellow Malaysians.

But the Grand Prize winner of Cannes Critics’ Week, Amanda Nell Eu, instead chose to distance herself from her film, “Tiger Stripes”, which has been greenlighted by Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board for screening.

She has disowned her own film after it was reportedly heavily cut by the censorship board to the extent she felt it was no longer the movie she had made and that had won the Cannes award.

Presumably the message of the film might have been distorted by such invasive snips.

“Tiger Stripes” tells the story of 12-year-old Zaffan (played by Zafreen Zairizal) struggling with puberty. She discovers the freedom of embracing herself in the midst of community pressure.

It is generally the nature of censorship to cut the content, which can skew or disrupt the storyline as well as diminish its artistic value.

The impact of censorship is often felt by a film that tries to challenge conventions or present uncomfortable truths that many people prefer to ignore.

Therefore, it is understandable that such an artist as Eu would not want to be identified with a creative product that has been tampered with and which she can no longer be proud of. Her reputation is at stake. 

To agree to the screening of the censored film is tantamount to insulting oneself and the arts while condoning the curbing of themfreedom of artistic expression.

The authorities’ permitting the screening of a heavily censored version of the film is not exactly an honour and celebration of Malaysian art.

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