Group claims censorship over film screening at M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018

Group claims censorship over film screening at M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018

The collective The Glory Hoes says its proposed screening of the documentary Paris Is Burning was removed from next year’s lineup and festival brochure after a meeting between sponsors M1 and organisers The Necessary Stage.

The Glory Hoes
The Glory Hoes (from left) Bobby Luo, Prashant Somosundaram, Becca D'Bus. (Photo: Tham Wai Hon)

SINGAPORE: Ahead of the official press conference for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018, a group has claimed an incident of censorship regarding a film screening.

In a media statement released Tuesday (Oct 10), The Glory Hoes said its proposed presentation of the movie Paris Is Burning had been removed from the festival’s programming and brochure collaterals.

It also claimed that despite repeated calls, theatre group The Necessary Stage (TNS), which organises the annual event, has “refused any kind of transparency” regarding the situation.

The fringe festival was set to announce later on Tuesday its full lineup, which features shows that revolve around the theme Let’s Walk, which is also the title of a performance piece by Cultural Medallion recipient Amanda Heng. The festival proper will take place from Jan 17 to 28, 2018.

The Glory Hoes is a collective that regularly host queer-themed film screenings at alternative cinema venue The Projector. It comprises three individuals working in F&B, nightlife and the arts: Butter Factory founder Bobby Luo, Artistry owner Prashant Somosundram, and drag performer Eugene Tan, who goes by the moniker Becca D’Bus.

At the recent edition of the festival, held on January 2017, Tan produced an alternative burlesque performance.

In the statement, the group claimed it was invited by festival organisers to propose an event to be held as part of the festival’s In Conjunction section, which is presented with no additional funding but is featured in the festival brochure.

According to The Glory Hoes, TNS informed the group it will give them “a miss” following a meeting with sponsors M1. The Glory Hoes said that organisers cited the controversy surrounding this year’s edition, where two shows involving “excessive nudity” were withdrawn after a media storm.

The statement added: “They then noted that they were afraid that the inclusion of this event in the programme could be spun to look like ‘the Fringe is celebrating the LGBT lifestyle’."

The film in question is a 1990 documentary about drag and transgender ‘ball’ scene in New York City.

The group clarified that the film is not being censored by the festival, pointing out that it has already been given an R21 rating by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA). There are now plans to screen it as an individual effort next year at The Projector.

“What is being censored is the programming of the film as a response to Let’s Walk by Amanda Heng,” said the statement.

“The film we are talking about has been cleared, which means they’re proposing a kind of censorship that is more conservative than the state,” Tan told Channel NewsAsia.

In response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, the festival admitted it had dropped Paris Is Burning from the programme lineup, but added that while the circumstances were unfortunate, it was not uncommon to do so.

“In the past, we have experienced instances where we have had to withdraw works from the shortlisted Fringe line-up due to reasons such as funding, permissions, licensing, logistics, professional differences, and so on,” it said in a statement.

The festival, which said it had discussed the possibility of presenting The Glory Hoes at a future edition, also added that it was taking “special care” not to repeat the controversy in its recent edition where works were “taken out of context by smaller, possibly less discerning groups of people”.

In response to The Glory Hoes' accusation of censorship, the festival explained that it constantly tries to "negotiate the positions of the audience, the sponsors and the artists we are presenting. We have always had to adopt a gradual, strategic approach, paying close attention to what's happening on the ground."

It added: "We will continually engage with difficult topics and situations. We are at the forefront of documentation and public discourse, having organised numerous talks and discussions on urgent and topical issues."

The festival also defended M1, saying that it has not interfered with the festival’s programming. The telco has been a longtime supporter of TNS’ events, including previous festivals such as the M1 Youth Connection and M1 Theatre Connect.

“Through the years, M1 has proven to be an exemplary sponsor who has been supporting challenging and socially-engaging works, and not interfered with the Fringe’s programming. We want to appreciate and applaud this enlightened approach, and want to work towards maintaining this in the future,” said the statement.

Source: CNA/mm