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Tanjong Rhu by Boo Junfeng and Loo Zihan’s Threshold - which was to have its world premiere tomorrow - have been withdrawn by organisers just days before they are to be shown at a Singapore short film festival which begins tomorrow.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