7 Singapore LGBT / adult films that faced censorship, or film screening withdrawals

*Disclaimer* All information reflected in this post have been taken from content of online articles which could possibly be subjective, have inaccuracy, or are outdated in nature. As such – validity of information presented in this post should be taken, and viewed with reader’s discretion.

#1 Sambal Belacan in San Francisco (25 Mins) 

* I couldn’t source for the film’s original trailer

Synopsis:

Journey along three Singaporean lesbians, and their difficulties establishing new lives and identities as new immigrants in America.

Year released: June 1997

Director’s name: Madeleine Lim

What happened?

The film was intially accepted at the Singapore International Film Festival, but was later banned by government censors just days before it was to be screened. Lim was never given an official reason why the film was censored, and ultimately banned in her homeland.

Madeleine said: “Some people thought it was a badge of honor to have your film banned..But I felt really upset. … I had a sense it wasn’t just the sexuality, but the race issues discussed.”

Screenshot of a scene in the film

1

Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards?

  • Premiered at the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in June 1997
  • According to sgWiki, “Lim’s films have been featured at sold-out theaters at international film festivals around the world, museums, universities and broadcast on PBS.”

[Interesting facts about the director]

  • The most traumatic homophobic experience she faced was – when she was coming out, and coming to terms with her lesbian identity in a local all-girls Catholic convent school. She was ‘outed’ to all the teachers, and constantly pulled out of class for ‘counselling sessions’. The pressure became unbearable, which eventually broke her then girlfriend and her apart, and she was also closed to thinking about suicide.
  • In 1984, the then 20 year old ran an underground lesbian feminist newsletter for 2 years, and also organized monthly potlucks.
  • In 1987, Madeleine co-wrote and directed a skit for a dinner organized by AWARE (*Singapore’s gender equality advocacy group) in celebration of Interntational Women’s Day. The Singapore government arrested the woman with whom Lim had co-written the skit with (*Marxist Conspiracy arrests in 1987 where the Singapore government arrested 11 people in the second round of arrests, which included a number of writers and theater practitioners). Madeleine’s parents had feared that she would be arrested and thus, she later left Singapore for the US in 1987.
  • In 1988, Lim moved to San Francisco where she  co-founded the US Asian Lesbian Network and SAMBAL (Singaporean & Malaysian Bisexual Women and Lesbians)

Additional research links

drama queen: madeleine lim interview (fridae, 23 Feb 2001)

SF Chonicle Features Grantee Partner Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (Astraea, 7 June 2009)

Madeleine Lim (sgWiki, 2014)

 #2 Be With Me (93 Mins)

Synopsis: 

Three tales of love wrap around the true story of a blind and deaf woman named Theresa Chan. In the first, an elderly shopkeeper is devoted to his sick wife. In the second, two teenage girls become soul mates and lovers. In the third, a chubby security guard tries to find the courage to woo a beautiful woman who works in his building. 

Year released: 2005

Director’s name: Eric Khoo

What happened?

The original film poster depicted a scene from the movie where the two main actresses were locked in an embrace.

As quoted by a spokesperson of MDA “One of the guidelines states that posters must not depict or promote homosexual or lesbian intimacy…As such, the distributor was advised to use alternative visuals.”

The director had thus, later replaced the film poster with an image of a man necking with one of the actresses.

*Before and after film poster

Photo credit                  Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards?

  • The first Singaporean film to be nominated for the European Film Awards 2005
  • Film has been invited to the Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Pusan International Film Festival amongst others
  • Received international distribution including the US and Europe
  • Received glowing reviews in the French media when it opened in October 2005

 [Interesting facts about the director]

Khoo’s older films Mee Pok Man (1995) and 12 Storeys (1997) have together been screened at over 60 film festivals, held all over the world including Ivy League festivals such as Venice, Berlin and Rotterdam.

Additional research links                                                                                                                

Be With Me – google search

Be With Me (Wikipedia, 2014)

Eric Khoo’s movie poster banned (Singapore Rebel, 8 Sept 2015)

Eric Khoo (Wikipedia, 2016)

 #3 Solos (77 Mins)

Synopsis:

A boy carries on an illicit affair with his schoolteacher while becoming more distanced from his mother. As the boy and his older lover also become more distanced over time, the boy breaks off the relationship, and his lover becomes distraught.

Year released: 2007

Directors’ name: Kan Lume and Loo Zihan

What happened? 

Censors had demanded 3 cuts to the dialogueless film. Totaling less than an estimated five minutes, the three scenes had depicted “scenes of homosexual lovemaking” which included – oral and anal sex scenes involving three men, and a shot of a man going down on another in the shower – behind a frosted glass panel.

Organizers of the Singapore International Film Festival, and producers of “Solos” said that in line with the festival’s policy of only showing uncensored films, the film was therefore withdrawn from public screening.

Solos was also given an NAR rating in 2007.

Q: What is NAR?

A: In exceptional cases, a film may not be allowed for all ratings (NAR) when the content of the film has been deemed to undermine national interest or erode the moral fabric of society. This includes themes..depiction of real sexual activities/unsimulated sex… fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent, explicit promotion and normalisation of homosexual lifestyle, explicit homosexual scenes etc.

Film Poster

1

Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards?

  • Bagged the Premio Nuovi Sguardi Award at the 2008 Torino GLBT Film Festival

[Interesting facts about the director]

Loo Zihan

Additional research links  

gay movie, solos, pulled from singapore film festival schedule (Fridae, 20 Apr 2007)

Solos (Wikipedia , Apr 2016)

Gay sex scenes in local movie ‘Solos’ censored (Plural, 23 Apr 2007)

Media Censorship in Singapore (Wikipedia, 2016)

Loo Zihan (Wikipedia, 2016)

 #4 Threshold (20 Mins) 

*Film was partially funded by Fridae (a media and service company that seeks to be gay Asia’s leading media & social networking website; the business community’s primary conduit to the Asian gay community; and a respected voice in advocacy for equality and freedom of choice)

Synopsis:

Based on the true story of a gay medical student on his way to a sex orgy who was caught in an anti-narcotic sting operation.

Year released: 2009

Director’s name: Loo Zihan ( *Yes, he was in #3 of our film list for co-directing Solos)

What happened?

The film had been pulled from the 6th annual Singapore Short Cuts festival (alongside another short film Tanjong Rhu). The festival organised by the National Museum and the Singapore Film Commission had featured 19 short films over two weekends. Loo could not be reached then, for comments about the withdrawal of his film.

Film Poster

1.jpg

Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards?

At the inaugural Singapore Short Film Awards (SSFA) held at The Substation on 31 Jan 2010, the film won the Best Script award and was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Soundtrack.

[Interesting facts about the director]

He created a mini-stir in July 2009 as a student at Nanyang Technological University. The media had reported that he was ‘protesting’, when he said in his valedictory speech that his school had asked him to change the poster advertising Threshold, his final-year project. He told the media that the poster for the film had been deemed ‘inappropriate’ to be displayed during the convocation ceremony.

Additional research links

‘Tanjong Rhu’ and ‘Threshold’ cut from short film festival in Singapore (fridae, 14 Aug 2009)

Gay films (SgWiki, 2014)

 #5 Tanjong Rhu (19 Mins)

*Film was partially funded by Fridae

Synopsis:

A former military officer seeks closure by making a documentary film about a man whom he had furtively encountered in Tanjong Rhu many years ago. Tanjong Rhu is a secluded beach on the east coast of Singapore, and a popular cruising ground for gay men. In an entrapment exercise in 1993, 12 men were arrested there and sentenced to imprisonment and caning. This is a fictionalised account of what has happened since then to one of these men.

Year released: 2009

Director’s name: Boo Jun Feng

What happened?

Boo Jun Feng received confirmation that his film had been pulled from the 6th annual Singapore Short Cuts festival (alongside another short film Threshold) just days before it was to have been screened. The festival organised by the National Museum and the Singapore Film Commission had featured 19 short films over two weekends.

Boo when queried then, responded that he was not told why his film has been pulled from the schedule. He declined to speculate on the reasons, adding that the film had been rated R21 and uncut by the censorship board, and could have legally been shown at the festival or at any other venue licensed to screen R21 films.

Film Poster

1

Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards? 

  • Awards

Teddy Award Nomination – 59th Berlin Film Festival

Audience Award – 24th Torino GLBT Film Festival

  • Notable Festival Participation

2009 – 59th Berlin Film Festival

2009 – 22nd Singapore International Film Festival

2009 – 24th Torino GLBT Film Festival (Italy)

2009 – 15th Palm Springs International ShortFest & Film Market (USA)

2009 – 18th Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

2009 – 27th Vancouver International Film Festival (Canada)

2009 – 15th Encounters Short Film Festival (UK)

[Interesting facts about the director]

His latest film – Apprentice (2016) which tackles the death penalty, will open in seven other countries or territories worldwide, and includes getting a theatrical release in the UK. The film was also screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Additional research links                                                                                                                

Boo Jun Feng Films

mr nice guy : boo junfeng (Fridaeasia, 14 May 2008)

Apprentice (Wikipedia, 2016) 

Boo Jun Feng (Wikipedia, 2016)

‘Tanjong Rhu’ and ‘Threshold’ cut from short film festival in Singapore (fridae, 14 Aug 2009)

 #6 Female Games

Synopsis:

A young Singaporean model, Alexia, and her female friend leaves for Kuala Lumpur to meet a casting agent. The two eventually find themselves falling in love after a number of pitfalls on the road. Through the journey, Alexia grapples with what it means to be pan-Asian and lesbian.

 Year released: 2009

 Director’s name: Kan Lume (*who also co-directed film # 3 in our list – Solos)

 What happened?

The original full version was disallowed as it contained many explicit lesbian sex acts, and exceeded the classification guidelines. An edited version was subsequently submitted, and was classified R21 with an edit to an explicit,  prolonged lesbians sexual scene.

Film Poster

1.jpg

Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards?

World Premiere of the film was held at Sinema Old School, which saw an overwhelming turnout and was followed by an enriching talkback session.

[Interesting facts about the director]

He had started out as an accountant and auditor before progressing on to become a film director, and as such, he felt the former job experience could have possibly helped in balancing his film budgets.

Additional research links                                                                                                                

9 films banned in Singapore (AsiaOne, 1 Oct 2010)

Gay films (SgWiki, 2014)

interview with kan lume, director of female games (Sinema.sg, 2 Aug 2009)

 #7 In the Room (103 Mins)

Synopsis:

The story starts just after the surrender of the British to Japanese troops in Singapore in 1942. Six stories of six different Japanese, British, and Chinese couples are set in the same hotel room, spread over several decades. 

Year released: 2015

Director’s name: Eric Khoo (Yes, he was also the director in #2 of our film list – Be With Me)

What happened?

Festival films are given more leeway than commercial releases. As such, the film was passed uncut with an R21 rating for the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) 2015 screening which it premiered at.

Khoo didn’t want any cuts for a commercial release of the film in Singapore. Henceforth, he withdrew his submission for a rating for the film from the Media Development Authority (MDA), after the latter had deemed that two scenes as exceeding the R21 rating guidelines. The film was also denied a commercial release, as unrated films are not allowed for public release.

Khoo had said: “It’s sad… there’s nothing really that contentious about my film. If I were to censor it, it would go against my principles as a film-maker.”

Things have however ended on a happy note as on February 2016 – the film was given a general release, after an “international version” with subtle differences from the original was passed with an R21 uncut rating by the censors.

Screenshot of a scene in the film 

1

Photo credit

Film screenings, festivals, or awards?

 [Interesting facts about the director]

  • First recipient of the National Arts Councils Young Artist Award for Film in 1997

Additional research links                                                                                                                  

In the room (Wikipedia, 2015)

Eric Khoo’s erotic film In Your Room not classified for release in Singapore cinemas (ST, 2 Dec 2015)

Reworked ‘In the Room’ more spunky: Eric Khoo (CNA, 24 Feb 2016)

Eric Khoo (Wikipedia, 2016)

2 educational reads:

(2016) Universal Periodic Review & The LGBTIQ Community in Singapore. OOGACHAGA. PINK DOT SG.

(2012) Impact of Homophobia and Transphobia on LGBTQ Individuals in Singapore Survey Summary Report May 2012. Oogachaga.

For pleasure reading:

1

Everything about 377A summarized into a “comprehensive” nutshell for Singaporean readers

23635255340_fbd26bfbb2_o.jpg

[Investigative Journalism] 6 Political Videos & Singapore’s Censorship

1

Click HERE if you want to check out our Facebook page for new updates!

*Main Picture credit: gayfilmsg

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “7 Singapore LGBT / adult films that faced censorship, or film screening withdrawals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s