My dear friend (Cam Tu) from law school time forwarded to me news about movie directors and screen writers from Vietnam voicing their concerns about the draft Cinema Law ("Draft Law"). I have been following up on this Draft Law from day one and I must confess that it continues flabbergasting me over the different 7 versions. Version 8 of the Draft Law will be on the table for the National Assembly members to haggle around October this year.    

Among other things, Article 22 deals with the most controversial issue concerning the dissemination of films on cyberspace. Pending further update from Version 8, as a matter of fact, Version 7 of the draft Cinema Law proposes two options:

  • The First Option, referred to as post-examination (ex-post), permits films publishers to self-examine and take responsibility, and the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism ("MOCST") will conduct the examination procedure (if necessary) after the online publication/dissemination of films.
  • The Second Option, referred to as pre-examination (ex-ante), requires films to be disseminated on the Internet only upon the issue of Films Classification Permit by the relevant state authorities (i.e. the MOCST).

Notwithstanding the above-referenced two options, it was heard through the grapevine that a representative of the National Assembly proposed the Third Option which combines the two mentioned approaches, suggesting that post-examination should be adopted more predominantly. Pre-examination, on the other hand, should only be applied to films/movies that may have adverse impacts on politics, ideology, national defense, and security, taking into account the management capacity of the State.

While I am hoping that Version 8 of the Draft Law will ameliorate significantly and that most of the National Assembly members will be prone to the First Option (i.e., self-classification/post-examination approach), it would be good to look into how Singapore and other countries deal with the same issue.

For Singapore, the importing, making, distributing, or exhibiting of films in Singapore shall be governed by the Films Act of 1981. Over the years, Singapore has moved away from strict censorship (prior to 1991) to classification, clearly reflecting the country's progressive and liberal approach towards the film industry.

Under the Singapore's Films Act, the Info-Communications Media Development Authority ("IMDA") is tasked with classifying films meant for distribution and public exhibition; however, certain types of films are exempted from classification.

Among other things, Singapore places a huge emphasis on:

  • Due respect towards racial and religious sensitivities; and
  • Due impartiality towards public policy and other controversial issues.

The IMDA’s assessment of a film includes 7 (seven) content elements: Theme and Message; Violence; Nudity; Sex; Language; Drug and Substance Abuse (including Psychoactive Substance Abuse); Horror.

More importantly, unlike strict censorship, classification allows films to be suitably rated for different audiences so the public can have greater access to a wider range of media choices without compromising on the need to protect young children from undesirable content.

Singapore is just one source of reference. It is extremely important for the National Assembly members to get legal support from the stakeholders and industry experts before inking the Draft Law. All this will mean very much to augment the movie industry (which is supposed to bring in huge benefits for the country from different fonts). The proactive engagement between the law drafters and potentially-impacted subjects/film makers/investors will enrich and infuse policy insight, first-hand engagement with industry stakeholders, and multi-faceted perspectives which in turn allow Vietnam to integrate more with the global norms and best practice.   

October is a month of remembrance, especially this coming October. I am yearning for seeing many happy returns and jovial smiles from those who will be potentially impacted by the Draft Law.