Editor's Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)
Alfredo Castro
Gael García Bernal
Luis Gnecco
Antonia Zegers
Directed By: 
Pablo Larrain

The last part of a trilogy of political-themed films by emerging director Pablo Larrain, NO charts Chile’s unprecedented rise to democracy after it managed to overthrow the country’s military dictator Augusto Pinochet. It's based on the true story and unpublished play The Referendum by Antonio Skarmeta. Shot purely with analog video cameras from the ‘80s, the film seamlessly merges found footage with Lorrain’s effective documentary-style, which lends its mise en scenes a natural, gritty edge.

Opening Date: 
Thu, 2013-07-04
Running Time: 
1 hr. 57 min
Terry Ong
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The 29-year-old London-based director is the first Singaporean to win a prize at the Cannes Film Festival (Ilo, Ilo took home the Camera D’Or trophy recently and will screen at local cinemas in August). He talks to Terry Ong about the highs and lows of filmmaking.

Anxieties are the norm in filmmaking, especially for a control freak like me. You would think it gets easier with time, but it only gets harder.

Filmmaking is almost always a struggle before it becomes enjoyable, that’s when you can taste the sweetness of satisfaction from completing a work. I seriously think most filmmakers are sadistic.

Making and watching films provide me with so much gratification. My wife is sometimes jealous of this. But she is another big part of my life, and I probably need her more than I think I do.

It is really quite nerve-wrecking to be reading reviews of your own work. I had that experience for the first time in Cannes.

I’m not a religious person but I have this habit of going to Guan Yin Temple at Waterloo Street to pray for good luck. I did that just before Cannes, so there might be some divine intervention involved.

The human condition is universal everywhere. I guess that’s how our little film from Singapore connected with the international audience at Cannes. But I have to say, London has more life. People tend to be richer here, not physically, but what’s inside of them. And it’s a city that really cares about its culture and heritage.

Ang Lee is my biggest hero. I can’t imagine a better role model in terms of a filmmaker or even just as a person. I actually had the opportunity to speak to him backstage after the awards ceremony at Cannes. That really made my day.

A good film will move you or conjure an emotional reaction in you, and usually the really good ones do it in ways you can’t even describe.

I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I’m actually quite keen to explore that again.I believe it makes you a better director. But I dread memorizing lines as I’m bad with that.

I was always fighting with my two younger brothers growing up. I guess that’s usual when you have just boys at home. I had a really fun childhood filled with DOS games, badminton and booby traps, games that normal boys play.

I hope that a distinctive brand of Singapore cinema that is appreciated or admired around the world will emerge. My sense is that there is a new wave of films approaching, led by young, intelligent and perceptive filmmakers with a strong personal voice. I do hope they will get the support they need, and these films will be realized. Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan have done it. Hopefully our time is soon.

I wish I loved money more, then at least I would be less poor now, but the money will come someday, I’d like to think.


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Acclaimed abstract artist Peter Zimmerman deconstructs traditional pictorial concepts in his works, resulting in an explosive collection of pieces featuring intense colors with multi-layered epoxy paint in his first solo show here. Gallery director Dane Reinacher breaks down Zimmermann’s various abstractions for us.

His abstract paintings are a departure from his previous works which play with the written word. Why so?
Departing from his visual research and painterly practice of his very first Book Cover Paintings, Zimmermann established the bases of reading text as image and image as meaning. His paintings, although not engaging anymore with the written word, nevertheless convey pictorial meanings and are in tune with the fortuity of contemporary existence.

What are some of the themes apparent in this new series?
Zimmermann’s works reflect upon the visually intricate environment contemporary society is subject to and determined by; and they also reflect on the improbability of images to be independently interpreted. Every modern image is a result of a multitude of visual influences and pictorial languages; the notion of the Web, in particular that of a pictorial web, is paramount in our culture.

What can artgoers expect at the show?
Curatorially, Zimmermann wanted to transform the gallery space with his large scale monochromatic paintings into a new energetic field and spiritual space into a "chapel of colour" of sorts. And this is exactly what the viewer is experiencing in our gallery space being confronted with his glossy, translucent paintings.

crystal & fruits is on through July 7 at the Michael Janssen Gallery, Gilmann Barracks.


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Man of Steel

Editor's Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)
Henry Cavill
Amy Adams
Russell Crowe
Kevin Costner
Diane Lane
Directed By: 
Zach Snyder

The latest Superman film is shockingly dated. Despite the many technological advances made in the FX department (surely, this is one of the best-looking and realistic in the series) and the shakiest camerawork we’ve seen in a superhero movie (The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, anyone?), there is not much new here. What made the older films so charming, especially the ‘70s and ‘80s originals, were their believable lo-fi aesthetics (groundbreaking then) and Christopher Reeves, who had the acting smarts to make his Clark Kent memorable.

Opening Date: 
Tue, 2013-06-25
Running Time: 
2 hrs. 24 min.
Terry Ong
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Five new gay-themed books for further reading.

I Will Survive by Leow Yangfa
Nearly 300 pages worth of personal gay encounters and coming out stories that will not only move you, but jolt you out of your mundane existence.

The Invisible Manuscript by Alfian Sa’at
If you think his political commentaries were sharp, wait till you get a load of his poems. Sa’at reveals all with this set of quietly devastating paeans to transient gay love, culled from his current and previous relationships.

Scattered Vertebrae by Jerrold Yam
Yam’s “coming out poems” densely trace the uncertainties of a gay childhood and all its insecurities—the perfect place to start for the uninitiated.

Straws, Sticks, Bricks by Cyril Wong
Wong’s latest call to arms fl ow more like fractured narratives than they do poems, with brilliant observations of the true nature of desire.

Tender Delirium by Tania De Rozario
Funny and biting, Rozario’s matter-of-act recollections of past love and crushes will resonate with many Gen Y-ers.

All books are priced at $16 from Books Actually


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Why there’s never been a better time to be gay in Singapore.

Let’s not mince words: it ain’t always easy being gay in Singapore. It isn’t even easy writing about anything gay here. At times it seems as if everyone knows what’s going on, yet no-one’s quite sure what’ll happen if they come out and say it. A case of the Emperor’s—or better yet the Queen’s—New Clothes.

Recently, though, the chorus of people willing to say something has become, if not necessarily more vocal than their predecessors, then at least easier to hear. People partying, people protesting, people putting on empowering plays, people challenging long-standing laws—and not being shut down like perhaps they would have been before. Given that the long-received wisdom about Singapore has been that it’s anything but gay-friendly, that’s a truly astonishing turn-around.

So while there’s still a way to go, rather than turn in a term-paper on the battles fought and still to come, we thought a tour of the frontline was in order. How has this change come about? Why now? And what evidence is there for progress?

1. Pink Dot gets bigger and bigger every year.

Last year’s rally for inclusivity, Pink Dot, was—say the organizers— attended by more than 15,000 people (a huge leap from the inaugural edition in 2009 which pulled in just 2,500), with even more expected at this year’s edition, taking place this weekend (June 29) at Hong Lim Park. It’s sponsored by giants like Google, Barclays and—this year—J.P. Morgan, Park Royal Hotel and more. Now that’s mainstream.

Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa thinks that all of this speaks to the fact “that things are changing, and that more and more open-minded Singaporeans are willing to speak up for issues that they care about”. He points out that, “Pink Dot has never been just a ‘gay thing’. It provides a platform for anyone who wants a more open-minded and inclusive Singapore to make a stand, regardless of his or her own sexual orientation.”

What to expect from this year’s event? Choa says that as well as “a community tent, where visitors can mingle with our many community and support groups,” there’ll be “performances from notable local names including acapella group Vocaluptuous, singers Joanna Dong and Wayne Sandosham, indie band Typewriter and dance group Vogeulicious."

2. Mainstream venues are putting on gay nights.

It was 30 years ago that landmark disco venue Niche opened here, allowing same sex dancing for the first time. And despite a bumpy ride along the way (it was as recently as 2005 that the Nation V open air dance parties were banned), it’s no longer unusual to find gay nights at mainstream venues. Uber-cool CBD club Kyo recently introduced a new gay night, which takes place every Sunday. "It's a night where everyone can just let their hair down, be themselves and just have fun," says Kyo's creative manager Sharmaine Khoo. That follows hot on the heels of Broadcast HQ’s popular Mercury Rising which launched late last year and was explicitly billed as “not a ‘friendly’ or ‘pink’ or ‘happy’ night—it’s a gay night”. (ƒThat was on Facebook, which has allowed venues to be far more forthright in their marketing than ever before.) Interestingly, one person convinced things are looking up is Stuart Koe, founder of pioneering personals website (which was behind the Nation V parties). He thinks that, “For the most part, it is good to be gay in Singapore. We’ve got options, we’ve got outlets, and we’ve got a community that is growing in size and diversity… I’d argue that the positives outweigh the negatives.”

3. Gay plays are selling out.

Got an evening free in July? Then head on over to LASALLE College of the Arts, where from 3-20 July you can watch a restaging of local playwright Alfian Sa’at’s early work Dreamplay: Asian Boys Vol. 1, a campy gaycentric comedy about “a goddess on a heroic mission to earth to save gay men from themselves” (and we’re just quoting the press release here!). ƒ That’s if you can get a ticket.

This year already has seen packed stalls for W!ld Rice’s version ofƒ The Importance of Being Earnest back in April, which featured an all-male cast and was filled with subtle homosexual innuendo. Indeed, theater company W!ld Rice (where Sa’at is Resident Playwright), and its Founding Artistic Director Ivan Heng, have been behind some of the boldest and most provocative works here; including a performance of the famously camp La Cage Aux Folles at the Esplanade Theatre last summer.

It’s not all plain sailing, however. Heng (who’s also a spokesperson for this year’s Pink Dot), came out in an interview with the Straits Times last month, but believes he’s had it easier than others. “I am lucky to work in theater where there is an understanding and acceptance of difference. But I know of many creative and talented people who have left Singapore, carrying the burden of being in the closet,” he says.

4. You can buy a gay magazine.

Well, so long as you have your iPad, that is. Gay-themed online magazine Element, which published its first issue in April of this year and is billed as the “voice of gay Asia,” is the city’s first since Manazine ceased publication in 2005 and suggests the open-mindedness encouraged by the likes of Pink Dot and Wild Rice might be taking root. “Our vision for the publication is to challenge the negative stereotypical perception towards the LGBT community as well as LGBT lifestyle publications by creating inspiring, healthy and intellectual content that will address the social issues facing the community,” says Managing Director Hiro Mizuhara. ƒ

There’s still a degree to which they’re hedging their bets. Although Mizuhura insists, “ƒThere is no nudity… but only stories promoting the various social issues which are in the agenda of the Media Development Authority (MDA) or other governmental organizations,” the magazine is hosted on a US server and is available only in digital form (from the Apple App Store and Google Play), not in print. A spokesperson for the MDA confirms that in recognition of the “borderless nature of the internet” they have “opted for a pragmatic and light-touch approach to Internet regulation” and that “online magazines like Element do not need to be licensed under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.” ƒ

The magazine now has over 9,000 local subscribers, with its second issue just out, and has attracted advertisers including local superclub Avalon and menswear label Paul Smith. However you cut it, that’s progress.

5. There’s some serious queer literary talent (even if you don’t know it).

Independent publishers like Math Paper Press have put out an impressive array of gay literature in recent years, among them Leow Yangfa’s I Will Survive, which features real-life accounts of LGBT experiences and was launched last month at the Books Actually store.

“The response has been fantastic,” says publisher Kenny Leck. “What we observed is that casual browsers and regular readers understand that a good book has been published, and want to read it and are buying it. We’d like to print even more copies, and sell even more of it. Make it the bestseller of all bestsellers. The idea is to share the stories, ideas and perspectives.”

Leow himself sounds a note of caution. “Although it is possible to publish works with LGBT content here, it is still hard to get government funding or mainstream media coverage,” he says. “For example, you will never see a LGBT segment at the Singapore Writers Festival, even though there are plenty of openly queer writers with queer sensibilities featured every year writing queer stuff . Similarly, none of the people in the mainstream media even want to talk to me about the book.” To which we say, thank goodness for non-mainstream media!

6. Even (some) politicians think the laws are out of date.

Legal analysis? Don’t switch off just yet—we’ll keep it brief. ƒThe biggest sticking point in any debate about “progress” is the continued existence of Section 377A of the Penal Code (a colonial legacy, which prohibits any form of sexual activity between two men, both in public or private spaces). ƒThe hetero equivalent—banning “unusual sex”—was repealed in 2007.

Critics, unsurprisingly, argue keeping it on the books is discriminatory. Among them, perhaps more surprisingly, MP Baey Yam Keng, from the People’s Action Party, who thinks it ought to be changed. “While almost all Western countries do not have similar laws, we will argue that it is not relevant for us to take reference from them. However, we are also choosing not to benchmark Singapore against countries like China, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines which do not have laws that criminalize male sexual activity,” he says. Although he adds that there is no real urgency yet for the government to repeal it right away.

So although the social line may be rather non-committal (in January, PM Lee was also quoted as saying, “Why is that law on the books? Because it's always been there and I think we just leave it") it’s not a stretch to think change might be coming. “If it takes another 20 years or so, it might be too long, so hopefully within the decade,” says Baey.

7. Plenty of people seem to agree.

In fact, local couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee are currently challenging the constitutionality of 377A; though their case won’t be heard in the Court of Appeal till the end of the year. ƒ This isn’t the first time such a challenge has been lodged (in 2010 another was—rather ironically—dismissed for “lack of a real controversy”), but social media could make this one a game changer. ƒThe couple has already raised more than US$100,000 for their cause through crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, twice the amount that they had hoped for.

“We have faced discrimination in school, the army and at the workplace,” says Lim. “People can’t understand what they don’t know and the status quo here is that LGBT issues are not frankly discussed and portrayed. However, globalization and the advent of digital and social media have fostered a shift in societal perceptions."

“ƒThe city loses a lot of face internationally by dint of having these anti-gay laws,” says local playwright Ng Yi-Sheng, author of gay poetry anthology Last Boy. “Some gay people are scared to work or travel here just because they've heard about the anti-gay laws.”

Others, including’s Stuart Koe, think it’s only a matter of time before the law is repealed. “I believe most of the government considers it a dead law, save a few conservative individuals. It’s not a question of if it will happen, but rather when.”

8. And the government is adopting a lighter approach.

Exactly what the government thinks of all this is hard to discern; though the fact that it’s happening at all speaks volumes. Lee Kuan Yew has himself questioned why we criminalize what is simply a “genetic variation”. But the laissez-faire approach makes it hard to point to concrete advances.

Almost everyone we spoke to cited the MDA’s guidelines regarding representations of homosexuality in the media as a big stumbling block. “[ƒThey] only allow for negative portrayals of LGBT people to be shown in mainstream media, so Singaporeans don’t get to see us as the regular folk that we are,” says Alan Seah, LGBT activist and member of Pink Dot. Sam Ho, a straight activist for the transgender community in Singapore, who formed the LGBT ally group SinQSA, finds it frustrating that “we have celebrations of straightness being blasted on all of our media platforms” with far fewer positive representations of gay life. He goes on, “Heck, even the National Day Parade, probably the most watched local production, is a celebration of straightness.”

The regulations, though, are not what they once were. In the past, content guidelines grouped “alternative lifestyles,” including homosexuality, alongside some rather wild practices (“worship of the occult or the devil” anyone?). Small wonder they had a bad rep. But an MDA spokesperson tells us that they “regularly review” their policies to ensure they are “in line with… community standards and mores” and they will not “seek to defend a status quo when the community has moved past it.” ƒ That approach is reflected in their new TV content guidelines, which came into effect in December. Now homosexuality is treated as “mature content” which will “generally attract an NC16 or M18 rating.” By contrast, the guidelines for imported publications (in force since 2009) still prohibit magazines that “encourage, promote or glamorize sexually permissive and alternative lifestyles” (defined as including sexual activity involving persons of the same gender). Local magazines meanwhile—including this one—are largely self-regulated (this story hasn’t been pre-vetted, for example); we’re instead expected to be “responsible in [our] reporting and… [take] into consideration societal norms and cultural sensitivities.”

So, while there’s a whiff of self-contradiction across the various policies, there’s no doubt the situation is evolving and it’s unrealistic to expect blanket change over night. On balance, we think credit is due to the government for the moves it has made of late in this direction.

9. There’s more to come.

Pink Dot is just the icing on the cake. The team from Element will also be holding its first Asia Pink Awards later this year, honoring F&B, travel and fashion players across Asia that are “truly gay-friendly and contributed to the community,” says Managing Director Hiro Mizuhara, and the annual Indignation will also be taking place Aug 3-31 across various venues like theater space 72-13 and the Singapore Botanic Gardens, featuring live music performances, talks and film screenings including Gen Silent, about ageing LGBTs in the US.

And as for clubbing beyond Kyo’s new night, veteran DJ George Leong is still packing in the crowds with his new Sunday gay nights Salvation at Dream, which appeals not just to the gay community, as well as new gay bar OUT Bar, which features live cabaret performances. “ƒThese events are testament that LGBTs should just be themselves and walk with their heads held high,” says Kyo's Sharmaine Khoo. "Integrate and contribute to society. Fall in love in the sunlight, not the shadows."

But that's not all. See a brief timeline of Singapore's gay movement, the groups behind them, and books that have made a difference.


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The globetrotting co-founder of travel site Indiescapes (which provides individual holiday activities hosted by city locals) shares her travel adventures.

I get hooked on a certain food, a certain idea, a certain song. And I can eat it, think about it and listen to it, repeatedly, incessantly, until I suddenly get sick of it.

You know those brilliant Japanese or Taiwanese variety shows like Tonneruzu (Human Tetris is one part of the show) or the older episodes of Guess Guess Guess? I’m one of those who’d be in my airplane seat, watching them on my iPad, and trying very hard not to laugh out loud. but ending up looking totally ridiculous. And unglamourous.

I once got stuck in a protest in Cusco, Peru, with Min (who’s now the other Indiescapes co-founder). Backpacks on our back, we rode pillion on a motorbike to the airport. We had to make several u-turns and detours, sneak behind slogan-shouting crowds and dodge stone-throwing protestors.

When we got to the airport, we learnt that other travellers had camped overnight at the airport. It was only us who somehow didn’t get the memo.

Childhood was great, but I think I always grew up with a slight identity crisis, being a Malaysian growing up in Singapore.

I’ll speak Mandarin fine with my friends, but once I pick up my parents’ phone call, my friends say I speak funny.

In Primary 4 on Singapore’s National Day, my teacher called me a traitor (jokingly, I think), but that probably left a scar.

I hate being boxed and labeled now.

I wanted to be a doctor with Medecins Sans Frontieres growing up. I went from that to reading law then banking—a 180-degree turn to professions with the worst reputations.

I love reading all sorts of materials, but there’s just something about magazines. I keep almost every issue that I get my hands on.

I even purchase magazines in languages that I do not know.

Collector… hoarder... it’s a fine line.

I loved living in Melbourne. It was one of the best cities to aimlessly walk around.

When M83 played here at Laneway Festival last year I was truly happy. Dancing to the mesmerizing “Midnight City” in a moonlit park, surrounded by fellow festival goers equally lost in the music… the world and I were one.

I’m one of those you wouldn’t want to go on road trips with.

Anything which uses simple yet unconventional ideas to solve complicated problems or to make a difference inspire me. Especially when it’s done with a lot of heart.

People who are full of themselves, who think the world revolves around them and who think they are always right make me sick. Wake up already! The world is huge. All of us are but a tiny part.

The meaning of life? Coffee. Savouring a cup of sweet-smelling black coffee under the sun somewhere. Don’t ask me why.


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Guilty of Romance

Editor's Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)
Megumi Kagurazaka
Kanji Tsuda
Makoto Togashi
Directed By: 
Sion Sono

Trust the Japanese to come up with the most morbid of storylines. Divided into five “chapters”, cult director Sion Sono’s Guilty Of Romance (the third of his Hate trilogy) focuses on two central woman figures: The main character, Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka), subservient to her demanding and seemingly straight-arrow novelist husband (Kanji Tsuda), is just plain bored with the routines of marriage. They agree she could use some distraction, so she takes a job in a supermarket selling sausages (subtlety is obviously lost on the director).

Opening Date: 
Mon, 2013-05-27
Running Time: 
1 hr. 40 min.
Terry Ong
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