The Blog of Dabido (the Baka one). Everything in this blog is copyrighted. Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by D. Stevenson.

21 July, 2006


On the 16th, The Great Swifty set me a meme to do. It's been five days, and I've finally got around to downloading the award winning film and viewing it. Now for the meme bit. [I just sat down and wrote ... so this is just one long stream straight from my brain. Hope it is coherent and not repetitive]. The Meme is about Danny Lim's film, '18?' The Film was vetoed from viewing in South Korea by the Malaysian Embassy there. The Sun asks 'why?' but the article answers it's own question. Reason given is Danny Lim is, “an anti-government political activist.” Of course, the question we all ask next is, 'Is he? Is Danny Lim an anti-government political activist'? Is it true? I find it sort of ironic in a way. The film has a bit of content where artists are interviewed [I find it funny when I see artists interviewed ... remind me to tell you one day!], but in it, the artists do speak a little about the restrictive nature of the local Government. How freedom of speech and freedom of expression are suppressed ... if the Malaysian Government wanted to prove otherwise they couldn't have done a worse things than suppress the film. [Like I said, 'Sort of Ironic'. It'd only be 'completely ironic' if the Malay Government actually wants to pretend to be in favour of freedom of expression. I guess they're just proving the artists in the film correct, and after all, I never heard the Malay Government make any claim to Freedom of expression]. Anyway, I don't really want to talk about the Malay Government. I'm not writing this piece to bag out a Government I don't live under. I know enough Malaysian who can do that on their own ... but feel free to bag the Australian Government if you have the urge. I don't want to give the impression I'm saying my country is any better when it comes to the truth. After watching the film, did I find Danny to be an 'Anti-Government Political Activist'? Not really. The film just tracks down some graffiti and asks some artists their opinion of it. In fact, he's done something which has often intrigued me. Haven't we all wondered at some stage, what a piece of graffiti really means to the person who wrote it, and who that person is and what that person is into? There is a plethora of questions which comes to my mind whenever I see something that intrigues me. I mean, advertising does it on purpose often with their 'Where's the Beef?', 'Got Milk?' and other questions they throw at us.

So, someone started painting '18?' all over the place. My first impression was maybe it was 1337 5p34k [elite speak], with the 1 = L and the 8 = ate. So, my interpretation would have been 'LATE?'

My response might have been. 'I am now that I missed my bus because I stopped here to ponder the meaning of “late?”'

Of course, the film asks a lot of people a lot of questions as to the meaning of the graffiti. '18?' WTFrig does that mean? ... and isn't really that the crux of what the writer/artist wanted to make you do?

Let's face it, it's what all artists want you to do ... think, ask questions, question everything.

I come from the school of, 'Question Everything' and 'It's Okay to ask questions'. We used to have a saying at University, 'It's Okay to ask questions, just make sure you get the right answers.' The problem I've found in life though, is that those in power [whether in Government, at Church, in Management, where ever], hate it when you come up with an answer that is different to their own.

And really, isn't that the real reason the film was vetoed. After all, the film itself doesn't give us the person who did the graffiti. We're left with a number of interpretations from a few different people, though the last bit with 'CD' of the different graffiti around the city does seem to give us a possible conclusive answer to the question being asked. [Though, is this CD really from the person who started the '18?' graffiti?]

I'm not sure it is, but I'm also not sure it isn't. [It's another question]. For all we know, the original graffiti artist who did the first '18?' graffiti was talking about something else. Someone else might have grabbed the graffiti and used it for their own purpose.

BUT, even if we are left with the reason for the graffiti, [if we believe the CD was authentic and the '18?' message is a questioning of National Service], the film maker is only the messenger of that reason. At no time does the film say, 'This is the reason for the graffiti and WE AGREE with what it is saying.' Nor does the film say, 'You must be against National Service'. Gees, if a film maker wanted to do a film like that, all they have to do is haul up a million arguments as to why it is bad, and bring forth people whose lives have been ruined by National Service. I didn't see that in this film.

The film isn't an expose on whether National Service is good or not. It's only tracking down the reason for the graffiti.

We do get to see a few artists who lament the lack of freedom of speech and expression under the present Government. Is this why the Government wants the film vetoed? After all, if people ask if they should have more right to speak what's on their mind, is the Government so insecure that they'll try to suppress it? Their actions seem to say that they are.

BUT, even at the end of all that, is this the film makers view? [Well, it probably is now that his film has been suppressed.] Are these not the views of the artists within the film?

Surely a Government secure in itself and it's own policies won't mind the people asking questions. After all, if they are improving things, then they can answer any criticism that people may have of them.

I think the two things in this film that are questions from the people are: 'Is National Service necessary?' and 'Should the people have more freedom of expression?'

I guess the vetoing is the Government saying, 'Don't ask questions!' But, every artist and every film maker any where in the world can tell you, the artist is there to reflect society and to ask questions. The only real reason a Government anywhere wants to stop people asking questions, is maybe they're afraid the people will have an answer different to their own. Whether the peoples answer is right or not, is irrelevant to the Government. However, as an artist myself, I believe the questioning from the people is important, even when they question the Government.

The vetoing of the film was a silly thing for the Government to do, as it INTERPRETS the film as being anti-government. It takes away the viewers ability to question by giving us an answer. The sad thing being, it may not be the answer the film maker wanted us to conclude, [ and as I said before, the film maker isn't trying to give us an answer, they're trying to get us to ask questions].

The vetoing seems to confirm one of the issues brought up by the artists in the film. When freedom of expression is removed, then the people have to express themselves in the only medium left to them, vandalism in the form of graffiti.

If the people are not allowed to say it, not allowed to express it, then truly, 'the writing is on the wall!'

If I had of been able to see this film WITHOUT knowing it had been vetoed, I doubt I could make much 'Anti-Government activism' in the film at all. After all, the original question was concerning, 'What's this graffiti that's become ubiquitous throughout the city? Who did it? What does it mean?' etc.

Sure, some in the film said it was against National Service, the CD at the end seems to conclude that it was by someone with that view. Still, the film itself did not say it agreed with this view.

Some of the artists complained of lack of freedom in speech and expression. Don't all artists complain of this, especially when they produce controversial pieces of art?

BUT, all conclusions have been taken away from the average person by the veto. We are TOLD it is Anti-Government by the Government.

I personally thought the film was quite a positive piece. The Governments actions are at least confirming the views put forward by the artists within the film. They said the Government was restrictive, and the Government goes out of their way to prove them right.

The writing is on the wall ... with more to come I would guess.

The MEME's rules:

  1. Post Youtube's embeddable player of 18? on your entry.Post a link to Danny Lim's site to download his film. (if you are nice, you can even start a mirror site for him)

  2. Voice out your opinions about the film , whether it is positive or negative. It can be a line, it can be a word, it can be a paragraph, it can be a fully essay, it's all up to you. No one's going to berate you for your opinions, you don't have to love the film, but at least spread it around.

  3. Tag three others to do the same.

I didn't embed the Youtube thingy, cause I'm too lazy to figure out how to do that. Link to Danny's site is above.

Anyone who wants to download the film and do the meme can do so. I'm tagging Batman, Spiderman and Superman. :-)