Local authorities have banned an LGBTQ-plus movie from screening in Singapore months after its government announced plans to repeal a law that criminalizes acts of “gross indecency” between men.
Several government bodies in Singapore — including the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) — released a joint statement on Monday announcing that director Ken Kwek’s LGBTQ-plus film “#LookAtMe” will not be released in theaters across the city-state.
The film, which premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival in July, follows a young man named Sean and his gay brother Ricky. After going viral for vlogging about a pastor’s homophobic sermon, Sean is imprisoned. He eventually plots revenge against the pastor, who was seen engaging in an act “prohibited by his professed religious faith.”
“#LookAtMe” states in its opening frame that it is “inspired by true events.”
The movie was banned for its “potential to cause enmity and social division in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” the recent joint statement said.
“Various descriptions of the pastor (including a similar sounding title) are suggestive of a real pastor in Singapore. Persons in Singapore may draw that connection,” the statement noted. “The context may be seen to be suggesting or encouraging violence against the pastor.”
The IMDA said in the statement that it had sought “the views of its advisory committees” and was guided by Singapore’s film classification guidelines, which state that “classification should be sensitive to the concerns of different racial or religious groups and the need to safeguard racial and religious harmony.”
“The allegations may be perceived to [be] offensive, defamatory and contrary to the MRHA, in that it may be seen as unfairly attacking a religious figure, as well as cause offense to religious beliefs,” the statement added.
Responding to the announcement, Kwek and “#LookAtMe” producers clarified that the movie is “a work of cinematic fiction
“ and hope that the IMDA would consider their appeal to reverse the ban ahead of the film’s planned release in December.
“The film seeks to entertain and encourage conversations on important social issues that are relevant to Singapore,” Kwek and the producers said in their recent statement.
“It features top filmmaking and acting talent from Singapore and beyond. … We hope Singapore residents are given an opportunity to see this film at the Singapore International Film Festival, which has selected the film for its 2022 edition,” the statement continued.
Singapore took its first step toward legalizing consensual same-sex intercourse in June when Singapore Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in an interview that the government would not prosecute its citizens under a controversial colonial-era law.
In August, the Singaporean government announced plans to repeal Section 377A of the city-state’s penal code that criminalizes acts of “gross indecency” between men.
“#LookAtMe,” Kwek’s second feature film following 2014’s “Unlucky Plaza,” won the Special Jury award for Best Performance after it premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival in July.