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23 Jul 2004

gay movies still a no-go in s'pore

Despite the Singapore Censorship Review Committee's recommendations to relax its ban on gay-themed movies and publications, it's still a no go for Taiwanese gay movie Formula 17 and Hindi lesbian film Girlfriend.

Singapore cinemas will not be screening recent Taiwanese boy-meets-boy romantic comedy Formula 17 nor will Indian lesbian film Girlfriend find its way into Singaporean homes.

Scenes from recent Taiwanese boy-meets-boy romantic comedy Formula 17 and conservative groups protesting against the racy lesbian film Girlfriend.
Following an initial ban by the Board of Film Censors earlier this month, the distributor, Festive Films which proposed a "M18" rating (for viewers 18 or over) urged the Films Appeal Committee to allow the coming-of-age movie. It follows the life of a 17-year-old boy who heads to Taipei in search of his dream lover, only to fall in love with a popular older gay man who does not believe in love.

The Films Appeals Committee however upheld the ban saying that it encourages homosexuality and "creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passers-by, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected."

The Singapore film censors are however, arguably half-right about the movie as it portrays a gay utopia where one is mostly surrounded by good looking muscular gay men in bars, fashion stores and gyms; and where no women or heterosexual men exist.

"It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression of society," the panel added.

Meanwhile, Girlfriend, the racy Hindi film that caused riots in several Indian cities and cinemas to be vandalised, will not be released in Singapore movie theatres or video.

The story revolves around two close female friends who share a sexual encounter but one gets jealous and violent as the other falls in love with a guy.

Gay and lesbian activists in India protested the movie alongside conservative groups; accusing the film of portraying lesbians negatively as it assumes that their sexual preferences are the result of psychological problems.

The local distributor, Network 2009 who had only wanted a video release and not for the big screen, submitted the movie to the Media Development Authority (MDA) for a Parental Guidance (PG) rating but was not approved.

MDA spokesman Koh June May was reported as saying in a local news report: "The film distributor asked for a PG rating but the film does not suit this rating because of its lesbian theme.

"If the distributor submits it for an R21 rating, we will assess it according to our film classification guidelines."

The distributor, Ramesh Nagrani, who did not appeal the decision said that a theatrical release would not have been profitable for him as the film has a non-star cast and "few people go to the cinemas to watch Hindi films."

He also did not attempt to get a Restricted 21 (R21) rating for the film to be screened in cinemas as most Hindi films are screened in housing estate cinemas such as Bedok and Woodlands where R21 films are not allowed.

Although Prime Minister Goh Chok Teng last year acknowledged gays were employed in government positions and urged Singaporeans not to discriminate against gays and lesbians; gay sex acts are still prohibited under the Penal Code.


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