Charges Against Mentega Terbang Cloud Malaysian Film Industry’s Future


17 January 2023: Today, Khairi Anwar and Tan Meng Kheng, respectively the director and producer of Mentega Terbang, were charged with deliberately wounding the religious feelings of others under Section 298 of the Penal Code. The charge carries a punishment of up to one year imprisonment or a fine or both. This comes after their movie, Mentega Terbang was banned by the Home Ministry in September 2023 and taken down from the streaming platform Viu in March 2023.  Freedom Film Network strongly condemns the continued harassment of the filmmakers. 

Criminalising filmmakers for a fictional film, especially one inspired by lived experiences of processing grief, is excessive and disproportionate. There is no evidence of continued public outcry and the movie was banned in September 2023. The government’s reaction overemphasises the role of film in influencing people. Parents, the home environment and teachers play a more important role than film in shaping a person’s worldview. However, films and filmmakers  seem to be the only ones punished and criminalised for their perceived negative influences on social values. This puts an unfair responsibility and burden on filmmakers to be the moral compass of the nation. 

To build religious harmony we need open communication, dialogue and safe spaces to share different perspectives to understand each other. In our experience, Mentega Terbang is an excellent tool to foster such discussions. The audiences we spoke to said they understood and appreciated other faiths better after watching the movie and could relate with the main character’s experiences. However, such positive experiences with the film are not taken into account by the authorities. 

The government’s approach of banning the film and now criminalising the filmmakers is an archaic form of content control. In today’s digital age where audiences are exposed to all kinds of  content, it is impossible to truly ban any media. Instead, it is more productive for nation building to empower citizens with the skills to process, navigate and share this content rationally and responsibly. This is especially important in a multi-cultural and religious society like Malaysia. Shutting down any conversations around this movie does not allow us to grow these skills.

Additionally, this move will harm the local film industry. The international acclaim of films like Tiger Stripes, Abang Adik, Maryam Pagi Ke Malam and Pendatang have created interest in Malaysia as a place for new and interesting content. This has the potential to bring much needed investment into our film industry. However, today’s charges send the signal that filmmakers are not protected in Malaysia and that filmmaking is actually a dangerous profession. This will have the knock on effect of scaring away investors from the industry. 

We call upon the government to immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against Khairi and Tan. We also urge the Madani government to repeal and amend provisions in the Film Censorship Act, Communications and Multimedia Act, and the Penal code such as Section 298 and Section 505(b) that criminalise the constitutional right to free expression. If Malaysia is truly to be the civilised and inclusive society imagined in the Malaysia Madani vision, then we need more stories not more censorship.

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