PETALING JAYA: After 15 years abroad, Sarawak-born director Tsai Ming-liang came home to make a film in Malaysia.
Now that he is ready to screen it here, the National Censorship Board has banned it.
Scenes of street brawls, air pollution, poverty and menacing foreigners, as depicted in the film, were deemed to be bad for the image of Malaysia.
I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, which was shot around Kuala Lumpur last year, stars Taiwanese actor Lee Kang-sheng and local newcomer Norman Atun.
It tells about Hsiao-kang (Lee), a Taiwanese who was robbed and beaten in the streets of the city and rescued later by immigrant worker Rawang (Norman).
The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival last year and was also nominated for several Golden Horse awards in Taiwan, where Tsai is based.
The film received a seven-minute standing ovation in Venice, said producer Leonard Tee.
“Everyone was moved and touched by the film. We wanted to share that glory with our fellow Malaysians.”
Tee said they received the censorship board’s letter on the ban on Feb 1 and an appeal has since been made. They expect a decision by this week.
He said the board gave eight reasons for the ban, which included the depiction of Malaysians as cold-hearted as seen in scenes of local people beating up and deceiving foreign workers.
Contacted in Taipei, Tsai said he was sad the film had been banned here.
“I’m Malaysian, so I do understand the sensitivities and rules and regulations in the country. And I have done my best to abide by them.
“The film is not about Malaysia. The theme is about human relationship and the need for man to find love, warmth and someone they can depend on.”
Tsai is currently promoting the film in Taiwan, where it is slated for release on March 23. It will also be released in Japan at the end of the month, and then in Singapore and the United States in April.