BY Lawrence Ferber
June 04 2009 12:00 AM ET
For Singaporean filmmaker Zihan Loo, the love that dare not speak its name doesn't require words. Solos, the gay 25-year-old's feature debut -- which he wrote, codirected, and stars in -- is a dialogue-free, emotionally fraught meditation on a student's (Loo) deteriorating relationships with his 40-something male teacher-lover (Yu Beng Lim) and physically frail mother (Guat Kian Goh), punctuated with bursts of modern dance, surreal imagery, nudity, and sex.
The film caused a stir in Singapore, where homosexuality is still illegal -- it was pulled from its world premiere competition slot at the 2007 Singapore International Film Festival due to cuts made by government censors. Deprived of any screenings in its homeland, Solos went on to play international festivals, including Los Angeles's AFI Fest and San Francisco's Frameline, and impressed the likes of Ian McKellen and John Cameron Mitchell, both of whom appear in a pair of hour-long video conversations with Loo on the film's DVD release (it's now in stores and also available online via Amazon and TLAVideo.com).
Solos evolved from a 2005 short film, Untitled, also codirected by Loo and Kan Lume, but its roots are planted firmly in Loo's own life, including a clandestine relationship he had as a teen with a man 25 years his senior. He has directed several additional shorts, choreographed and danced in Royston Tan's Cut, and acted in Ekachai Uekrongtham's 2007 feature Pleasure Factory (available from Strand Releasing). Loo recently completed a new short film, Threshold, inspired by a Singaporean police entrapment case, and come fall 2009 he will begin work on an MFA in film, video, and new media at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
From Singapore, Loo discussed Solos and its controversy, the relationships that inspired the film, and getting his name etched into Ian McKellen's gay history book.