The Singaporean media and information and communication regulating body recently ordered banning of a film that tackles LGBTQ and religion, saying it could cause a 'societal divide' in a country where such issues are hotly debated.
The decision came following Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's August statement on repealing a British-era law that criminalizes sex between men. However, Singapore vows to continue its definition of marriage as a legal union between a woman and a man.
According to the New Indian Express, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) worries that the film could divide Singaporean society due to its provocative and sensitive nature.
The movie titled "#LookAtMe" premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival in July 2021. Singapore-based Ken Kwek directed the movie, which regulators said went over existing guidelines on film classification.
In a statement released Monday, IMDA said the controversial film could not be screened in the city-state despite its triumph in New York. The film reportedly won two awards: Best feature and Special Jury award for Best Performance.
The New Indian Express quoted IMDA saying the movie "denigrates a religious community and has the potential to cause enmity and social division in Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious society." IMDA added that the film's plot essentially encourages or suggests violence against a religious leader.
The news report said the movie portrays the tensions between a pastor and a male lead character over homosexuality. The lead character took offense at the pastor's critical stance on the issue. The lead actor reportedly posted a social media attack against the pastor, which became viral.
The article bared that the lead character's "incendiary" social media rant stirred tension between him and the pastor, during which the lead actor began a plot to take revenge against him. The film also showed the pastor doing something contrary to his religious convictions.
Team Behind Film Reacts to Ban
Following the news of the film's ban, the creative team behind #LookAtMe expressed its dismay at the decision. It said in a press statement that it would appeal the verdict.
"#LookAtMe is a work of cinematic fiction. The film seeks to entertain and encourage conversations on important social issues that are relevant to Singapore," the team explained.
The filmmakers also expressed hope that Singaporean audiences could watch their film. The team disclosed that the movie had been slated to be shown in December at the Singapore International Film Festival.
LGBTQ Acceptance in Singapore
The news article noted Singapore's attitude towards LGBTQ issues.
It said the city-state still has conservative views on homosexuality despite its emergence as a modern society.
The report mentioned how the gay rights movement in Singapore had been steadily gaining support. One testament to its increasing acceptance in the city-state is the huge turnouts at the annual Pink Dot rally that champions gay rights.