Silencing Singapore

For Singaporean filmmaker Zihan Loo, the love that dare not speak its name doesn't require words.

BY Lawrence Ferber

June 04 2009 12:00 AM ET

How did Ian McKellen become involved?My producer Gerald [Herman] wanted some other aspect for the DVD. After the repercussions of everything that happened around the controversy -- how it got banned and withdrawn from the Singapore festival -- we felt we had the responsibility of showing something else, so we wanted to conduct interviews with people outside Singapore with perspectives coming from a more matured gay [society]. Ian came to Singapore a few years ago to do King Lear, and it was a milestone for Singapore's gay community because he went on prime-time TV and said he was gay. I wrote a very long e-mail to his website saying what I wanted to do and what this film meant to the Singaporean community. I waited two weeks, and amazingly, he replied. From there we set up an interview, I flew to London, and he was amazing. He took me out and we went to watch plays and he was so generous with his time, much more than was necessary for the interview. He had this directory of queers in history -- it was published a few years ago -- and he flipped to the page with L in it and wrote my name down on the page itself, and that was the single most significant moment of the trip. I will remember it forever.

Did he take you to London's famous gay bars, like Compton's?Not really. But he showed me around the West End, Soho, and Covent Garden. It was amazing to be with him because everywhere he goes he gets stopped.

And John Cameron Mitchell? John was a personal contact of my producer; they had been in touch. I really admire his work, especially for Shortbus -- how he portrayed sex as a part of life and how brave he was to show sex on-screen.

You guys seem to be flirting up a storm on the couch during your chat.Ha ha. Nothing happened, if you are wondering. He was just a very generous and open person. I guess it was the energy.

I find that John has a lovely, affectionate, and intimate way of communicating.Yeah, he has this amazing ability to make the rest of the world disappear. He's focused on you when he's talking to you and devoting his time to you. An amazing quality.

Tell me about your new short, Threshold, which also has its roots in real life.What happened was in 2006 a young medical trainee was entrapped by two narcotics officers. They arranged it on Internet chat channels, promising a threesome in exchange for him bringing drugs to the hotel. You can read more about the case online .

Now that it's available on DVD, how has Solos been received at home?Actually, it's not released locally because of censorship. People can buy it from Amazon. People talk about it on bulletin boards online, and I sometimes take a peek to see what they've been saying -- mostly interesting interpretations of the film, some negative comments, but mostly good.

What themes or personal issues do you want to explore -- or exorcise -- in your next films?The arrogance and ignorance of my generation, the culture of instant satisfaction, is something I'm interested in exploring.

Tags: film

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