Malaysian-Chinese singer and filmmaker Namewee's latest film Babi has raised more than a few eyebrows, despite not releasing locally
Babi, which has earned four nominations at various international film festivals including at the Open World Toronto Film Festival for Best Director and Best Actor and at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2020 for Best Original Film Song, has been courting controversy in Malaysia for its allegedly provoking nature.
Last month, the Federal Territory Perikatan Nasional (PN) Youth lodged a police report against Namewee over the film's poster, which shows various derogatory words used against the country's major races.
"This insult and provocation is seen as outrageous and is a rude and insolent act. We fear it can cause interracial tension in Malaysia," said its information unit member Mohammad Azwan Azmi.
The film's title, Babi, directly translates to "pig" in Malay and is commonly used in Malaysia against the Malaysian-Chinese community as a derogatory term/insult by locals.
According to Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, the film is based on a real-life event that took place in a school 20 years ago but the government allegedly tried to hide it from the public.
The hour-long film has already hit theatres in Taiwan on 20 November.
Now, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) wants a local association to file an official complaint against Babi so the agency can make a detailed assessment of its content
In an official statement on its website today, 13 December, MCMC, which falls under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, said that the request was made following a police report made by the Malaysian Artistes' Association (Seniman) on Friday, 11 December, against the film.
Seniman had posted on its Twitter profile that it lodged the report at the Taman Melawati police station against Babi for allegedly having elements of racism that tarnished Malaysia's image.
According to Seniman secretary-general Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nafiah, he feels the film contains elements of racism, a conclusion that he said he arrived at based on video clips that he watched.
"We don't prohibit any party from making critical films, but we must understand that Malaysia is a multi-racial country," Mohd Hafiz was quoted as saying in a Bernama report.
"I represent Seniman in making the police report against Namewee for several factors. First, the forgery of documents by the company that produced the film Babi," he was quoted as saying by Berita Harian, adding, "When Namewee applied to the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), he used a different name for the film, however, later converted it to Babi."
"If he wants to change the title, he has to apply again but he has not," Mohd Hafiz said.
He then asked the MCMC to block Babi on social media sites including YouTube.
According to MCMC, if the results of the investigation find that there are elements that violate any provisions stipulated under the existing laws, then enforcement action can be taken by the relevant agencies
For now, the agency has reached out to YouTube following the release of the trailer of the film which was uploaded on Namewee's YouTube channel but is still awaiting feedback from them.
Meanwhile, Namewee has defended his film while accusing certain quarters of playing the racial card for their own political agendas
"This film actually promotes unity among the multi-racial community in the country. In fact, during filming, the cast and crew, made up of various ethnic backgrounds, worked together harmoniously," he said.
While we are on the topic, read how FINAS' subsidy programme is helping in developing Malaysia into an international film hub: