Metro Weekly

Singapore Bans LGBTQ Movie “#LookAtMe”

Singapore government claims that movie "denigrates a religious community" and that its content may offend some Christians.

Singapore, #LookAtMe
Screenshot from the movie “#LookAtMe” – Photo: Eko Pictures.

Government authorities in Singapore have banned a film addressing how LGBTQ people and their families may face punishment for being critical of religious figures or communities.

Officially titled #LookAtMe, the film opens with the statement that it is “inspired by true events.”

From there, it follows a protagonist who gets “offended” by a Christian pastor’s views on homosexuality and LGBTQ people. In response to the pastor’s comments, the protagonist posts a video online mocking the pastor for his beliefs.

This ultimately leads to the protagonist being put in jail for violating Singapore’s laws on “hurting religious feelings” and his family being threatened. (Read Charlotte Clymer’s review of the film here.)

The film, by Singaporean director Ken Kwek, has been criticized by three government agencies related to the country’s culture — The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA) — which released a “joint statement” on October 17 explaining that the film “denigrates a religious community.”

The government agencies said they felt it was necessary to disallow the movie from being shown because “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.”

Government authorities also believed that parts of the film showing the pastor engaging “in an act prohibited by his professed religious faiths,” as well as the film’s overall tone, “may be perceived to be offensive, defamatory and contrary to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, in that it may be seen as unfairly attacking a religious figure, as well as cause offense to religious beliefs.”

Kwek has previously stated that the movie was based on a 2015 event where Amos Yee was arrested in Singapore for criticizing former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Christianity.  However, Kwek noted, in an interview with Cinema Escapist that his film depicts someone who isn’t spewing “vitriol or rubbish” like Yee. Rather, Kwek’s protagonist is someone who “has a really good thing to say.”

The film was previously shown at the New York Asian Film Festival in July 2022.

In response to the film being barred from airing by Singaporean government authorities, Kwek and those who made the film said they were “disappointed” and planned on appealing the decision.

With the film slated to be shown at the Singapore International Film Festival in December, the makers of #LookAtMe hope the decision will be reversed soon as “the film seeks to entertain and encourage conversations on important social issues that are relevant to Singapore.”

Singapore is rife with controversy surrounding LGBTQ issues. While the country has recently taken steps to decriminalize same sex relationships, the country’s government still struggles to tolerate the LGBTQ community — as evidenced by the banning of the film.

The government recently sentenced bisexual OnlyFans creator Titus Low to three weeks in prison for violating a provision in the country’s penal code that prohibits the dissemination and sale of pornography.

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