Source: My Paper
SINGAPORE - Is Jack Neo's Ah Boys To Men just one big ad for the Ministry of Defence (Mindef)?
After all, Mindef had approached Neo with a proposal - to turn the 2010 documentary, Every Singaporean Son, into a movie.
The goal? To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Singaporean rite of passage - national service (NS) - this year.
Despite the fact that the film heavily features Mindef equipment and locations, such as its Basic Military Training Centre in Pulau Tekong, Neo was adamant at a press conference yesterday that his latest movie isn't just a piece of propaganda.
He said that though he got "support" from Mindef, the government agency did not "interfere" with his creative process.In fact, Mindef told him it would let him have a "free hand".
Neo also clarified that Mindef did not pump any money into funding the two-part movie, which cost $3 million to make and which opens tomorrow.Neo said that "if (Mindef) had given us funding, they would have had a say" in how the script would have run, or how NS would have been presented.
He added that this wouldn't have been acceptable, since he wanted to present NS in a realistic light.
"I told them that there would be some 'damage' and that they must accept it," he said.
"They said 'ok'.
"In the movie, for instance, some recruits successfully fake illnesses to get out of training. And one kiasu mother, played by Irene Ang, berates a Mindef staff member after her son faints during training.
Neo also addressed criticism over blatant product placements in the movie featuring sponsors. Products from Bee Cheng Hiang and Toast Box, as well as staff from auditing firm KPMG, appear - sometimes in strange ways.
Writing in scenes for sponsors is part and parcel of movie-making today, Neo said, adding that he has an obligation to give something in return for sponsorship.
He said: "If we had enough money, we wouldn't (resort to) product placements.
"Even in Hollywood "where they have big budgets", there is plenty of such sponsorship deals, he said.
He noted that the Omega watch Daniel Craig wears in the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, is the result of product placement."It's something that can't be helped," he said.
Ah Boys To Men opens Nov 8 2012.