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14 Aug 2009

'Tanjong Rhu' and 'Threshold' cut from short film festival in Singapore

Two short films, Tanjong Rhu by Boo Junfeng and Loo Zihan’s Threshold - which was to have its world premiere tomorrow - have been withdrawn by organisers just days before they are to be shown at a Singapore short film festival which begins tomorrow. 

Two short films, both of which are partially funded by Fridae and loosely based on true life incidents of police entrapment of a gay man in one film and 12 gay men in another, have been pulled from the 6th annual Singapore Short Cuts festival which begins tomorrow.  

Organised by the National Museum and the Singapore Film Commission which operates under the auspices of the Media Development Authority, the festival will feature 19 short films over two weekends.

When contacted, Boo told Fridae he had only received confirmation on Wednesday that his film Tanjong Rhu had been pulled - just days before it was to be screened.

As of Friday, Boo says he has not been told why his film has been pulled from the schedule. He declined to speculate on the reasons.

He added that both the films have 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.

Although inspired by a real-life incident when 12 men in Singapore were arrested in a police entrapment exercise in 1993, the 19-minute Tanjong Rhu features a fictional character recounting his arrest and how the incident had affected his life a decade on.

Boo is recognised as one of Singapore’s most promising young directors having won the Best Director and Best Film Awards for Keluar Baris at the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) last year.

Tanjong Rhu  premiered at the SIFF in April this year and won the audience award at the Torino GLBT Film Festival the same month. It was also nominated for a Teddy Award at the 59th Berlin Film Festival and has been screened at the 15th Palm Springs International ShortFest & Film Market and 18th Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. It is also showing tonight at the Arts House as part of the month-long Indignation gay pride season.

Loo Zihan’s Threshold is also loosely based on an entrapment exercise involving a gay trainee doctor entrapped by the police for drug possession. In the 20-min film, two officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau are seen preparing to ambush their suspect in a hotel room where they had arranged to meet.

Loo's debut feature Solos is banned in Singapore although it was shown at several festivals in South Korea, France, US and Hong Kong. It also won him  the Premio “Nuovi Sguardi” (new perspective) Award at the 23rd Turin International GLBT Film Festival, Italy.

He could not be reached for his comments about the withdrawal.

The 26-year-old Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media graduate created a mini-stir last month when the media reported that he was ‘protesting’ when he said in his valedictory speech that his school has asked him to change the poster (seen on the right) advertising Threshold, his final-year project.

“(T)he poster for (my) thesis film was deemed 'inappropriate' to be displayed during this convocation ceremony.” He added that he “could not say the words (he) drafted originally with conviction and authority” as his work had been subjected to “censorship which (he) did not understand.”

The Singapore Film Commission and National Museum did not reply to emails from Fridae nor were the relevant persons reachable by phone.

Notably, both films have been partially funded by Fridae as both filmmakers were unable to raise funds from conventional sources due to the content of the films which touched on law enforcement issues. Threshold was partially funded by the proceeds from the Milk fundraiser organised by Fridae early this year. 

Fridae has been a recipient of the Singapore National Arts Council’s awards, which recognises companies for their support of the arts, in the last four consecutive years. In 2008, Fridae received the Friend of the Arts award given to companies who have contributed S$100,000 to S$299,999 in cash or in kind in 2007. 

Reader's Comments

1. 2009-08-14 22:46  
another reason to hate Singapore.
2. 2009-08-14 23:34  
Strange behaviour by the MDA as so often. But having your film banned in Singapore is becoming a badge of honour, a sort of award in itself.

Talking of censorship, I heard the funniest bits of Bruno have been cut for Singapore viewing, even the over 21's.
Comment #3 was deleted by its author on 2009-08-15 02:30
Comment #4 was deleted by its author on 2009-08-15 05:36
5. 2009-08-15 05:36  
Yes at #2. It's absurd & ridiculous. You mean the news went all the way to the UK? Well I hope so, Singapore should be ridiculed. 'A Jihad for Love' for the last example, all they care about is being over-sensitive. Muslims aren't the only minority here. Gay people too.
6. 2009-08-15 13:40  
But the 2 films mentioned here have not been banned, in fact they are rated R21 by MDA and can be shown at any cinema permitted to screen R21 films.

7. 2009-08-15 16:09  
Glad to read that fridae is supporting struggling Gaysian artists and even receiving awards for doing so. So I shall renew my membership when it's time.
8. 2009-08-15 17:32  
When it comes to censorship, Singapore is China's little sister half removed. Someone ions ago donated the scrambled eggs, whilst another, the frozen "cement" to produce a dead stiff piece of soulless cardboard to allow airborne ferns to sprout, naming it garden city. Pathetic. Nothing cool & original ever comes out of this cardboard.zzz

In China, one has NO access to Youtube. Go figure.

PS: Kudos to Fridae for being the heart & soul behind these budding talents. Hope one day you help burn tat useless piece of cardboard and turn it into a potable colorful landscape of real flora. Hugs.
Comment edited on 2009-08-15 17:37:30
9. 2009-08-15 17:45  
Both films, from the trailer, looks really powerfully made and genuine. I believe that truth scares the insecure powers that be. Can't have more foreigners and locals pee down the state pride airports and nudge it down further the world best airport scale any further la. That would be a bigger travesty and defeat than being labelled a tyrannic administration of grave human rights injustice & blatant discrimination. No, no, toilet over equal rights every time. Easier to just flush away their s.h.i.t. Yikes!...but it still smells.... :O
Comment edited on 2009-08-15 18:22:57
10. 2009-08-15 19:11  
要管谁?管这个社会?警察?还是管着看不起歧视我们同性恋的人们呢?nice quote!
Comment #11 was deleted by its author on 2009-08-16 18:13
12. 2009-08-16 18:19  
If I were Boo Junfeng or Loo Zihan, I would be thoroughly flattered....judging fr the MDA's track record of questionable taste,
if my work got banned it must be a damn GOOD film, fr an artistic point of view :p

At #2 steveuk: Yes, the papers reported there wld be a 1-min 'snip' of Bruno involving 'crude sexual humour'...bt, as per usual, didn't elaborate what it was Out of integrity I decided NOT to fatten the local distri's chequebook....anyway, I've alrd seen it in its entirety overseas, so no big deal there. Ha-ha!
13. 2009-08-16 20:28  
i hope both fils make it to the sydney mardi gras film festival
14. 2009-08-16 21:05  
Post 11(Bains)

re Bruno - I've been wondering if the talking penis near the start will survive the cuts in Sg. It brought the house down in Fulham, people crying with laughter. In the Uk there are 2 versions: the over 15 version and the over 18 version. I suspect the 21+ version in SG may be the 15+ version elsewhere.

re the 2 films in this article; if they've been passed for public viewing, what basis did the authorities have for pulling them? A written explanation from those responsible should be given.
15. 2009-08-16 22:45  
one word only. SAD . what to sad about? you think it yourself.
16. 2009-08-17 07:02  
Are we all not entrapped, in some way or other...
17. 2009-08-17 09:18  
Both the films are nicely shot and it indeed brings some foods for the thoughts. Maybe our authority is not ready for the change.
Kudos for the Boo Junfeng and Loo Zihan..
18. 2009-08-17 15:27  
What's new?

Muddled stance, mum's the word and a gray area made grayer...
Comment #19 was deleted by its author on 2009-08-17 16:45
20. 2009-08-17 19:50  
Is the censorship of TV and Cinema in Singapore part of the secular space, in reality (as opposed to in theory)?

It was generally a good speech by the PM recently on the dangers of religious fervour leading an invasion of the secular space, with particular reference to people at COOS. (But referring to the backlash by indignant opponents as "sometimes strident" is quite an insensitively sexist remark, particularly given the context of a feminist organisation. If it was a men's organisation I doubt he would have used such a word).

But what about religious influence on the supposedly secular space of TV and Cinema? I'd be more impressed if they took the evident fundamentalist influence out of the TV free to air code, which reads like an extract from Leviticus, or did the last time we saw it (thanks to Kellen). It's position on the depiction of homosexuals is a totally religious one. How did that happen?

And given the PM's comments, when will it be corrected to reflect a more secular, scientific (and compassionate!) view?
Comment edited on 2009-08-17 21:29:48
21. 2009-08-17 21:27  
(P.s. to post 20) Actually the wording itself seems to have become less biblical in nature,

"Information, themes or subplots on lifestyles such as homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexualism, transsexualism, transvestism, paedophilia and incest should be treated with utmost caution. Their treatment should not in any way promote, justify or glamorise such lifestyles. Explicit depictions of the above should not be broadcast. "

However this is still a fundamentally American Christian Right position, not an informed, secular one. This is clear from the use of their typical misleading jargon such as "lifestyle", and "promote", clearly viewing sexual orientation as a choice that people will be influenced into by watching a TV programme or film with a gay character or couple, rather than simply reflecting the existence of something innate, as well as linking in the people's mind a gay or bisexual orientation with things such as paedophilia and incest, one of the standard disingenuous ploys of the fundamentalists.

It is also way out of kilter with broadcasting norms regarding the duty to inform, educate and entertain, and has all the appearance of playing along with the agenda of a particular religious group.

I will be more ready to believe that this space is secular when events like the home improvement show that happened to have a gay couple in it, that got the religiously "fervent" to write and complain, and the relevant officials to kowtow to them, can pass without comment, or complainants are politely but firmly reminded of the need for tolerance, and that their religious views cannot dictate what other people have the choice of seeing on their screens. They can always choose not to watch it themselves.
22. 2009-08-18 08:25  
i think my new movie transcript" The Happy Bisexual Daddy" if ever made into a movie would pass the Singaporean censorship board with flying colors, wholesomeness is back in.. did any see "UP" by the way? it was written by a great gay sexy man and those gay friendly and well groomed gents at Disney
23. 2009-08-21 10:01  
And the biggest Queens at MDA have already had their field day watching both movies already... Tsk Tsk Tsk...
THIS IS WHY SINGAPORE WILL NEVER MAKE IT. Wanna be first in everthing but still has the f**king mentality stuck in the stone ages. Gosh I understand why people are migrating and never coming back.
24. 2009-08-21 10:29  
After reading 4 articles from today Fridae; brutal killing in Iranq and the Laamine Project, criminalization in Malaysia and pull out of both short films locally, my heart bleed with boiling blood and tears. We are what we are and we have done nothing that harm others. Why are people like us tortured, criminalized and discriminated.

Singapore and Singaporean are so proud of our economical success, 'integrity' in local law system, a democratic society among modern nations, so much about equality that we swear, yet, aj are discriminated. Being a Singaporean Im shameful, disgrace and provoked.
25. 2009-08-21 21:22  
Like what the director said that day, Singaporean audience must learn to speak up against censorship. Otherwise the battle will always be between the filmmaker/curator and the MDA. MDA cannot be allowed to continue bullying these young filmmakers. They will keep saying that they are protecting the 'morals' of the people. They need to realize that there are many people who are unhappy with how they are censoring and banning films, and that there is nothing 'immoral' about such portrayals of gay people in movies.

I am happy to know that there is an organization like Fridae that stands firm against such wrongdoings. Good work!
26. 2009-08-22 04:18  
indignation sg 09 got show this(tanjong rhu) flim at dunno where....sian..din go cos i dunno where's tt place =.=lll
27. 2009-08-22 05:08  
It supposely, singapore will be more open n liberal for gay compare to malaysia & indonesia. Anyway it just begin for gay in sg to demand for their rights. In term of gay film or short film, in malaysia is still taboo, by the way the current gay film will be casting after raya call "....Dalam Botol" which story between guy who turn into shemale n falling in love with another guy. this film create little bit controversial coz of is title but their being asked to drop word "ANU" at front of that title. Compare to singapore,malaysia now little bit "open" for gay & crossdresser role in film & drama for air in tv or cinema after Mahathir era. unfortunately, recently the information minister instruct all producer in industry entertainment not to make this role in their film or drama. anyway it still debate about it.
Indonesia is leading for acceptance gay movie, as example "Arisan" gay theme film won as best indonesian film festival in 2000s.
28. 2009-08-24 15:57  
There are R21 soft-prono showing in Sg everyday. 2 casino coming up soon, what 'moral' or 'immoral'? People at the 'top' say 'not immoral', the verdict is 'moral'. People at the 'bottle' dare to offend people on 'top' meh? Bottomline is Tanjong Rhu is about days when local authority decoyed aj. A stigma that is 'unspeakable', not to mention but to let everybody see for themselves through the movie. Such shameful past, never admit mistake, of course, ban lah.
29. 2010-02-13 00:19  
May be we should write in to the Singapore Film Commission and National Museum to voice our support for the movies? If enough people spoke up, it may bring some attention to the issue of inclusiveness.

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