In October 2020, QWOCMAP founding Executive/Artistic Director Madeleine Lim’s award-winning film Sambal Belacan in San Francisco (1997) screened publicly in Singapore for the first time ever, when the Singaporean government issued a one-time exception to their 22-year ban of the film. They also slapped it with a R21 rating, an audience limit of 33 people, and the expectation not to talk about LGBT issues or activism during the Q&A.This was a curious choice for the Classifications Board (FKA Censorship) to make, given that the documentary follows 3 immigrant Singaporean Butch lesbians grappling with home and belonging in the U.S. The film is frank in its portrayal of sexuality, race, and nationality in Singapore, and includes the fears of being undocumented in the U.S.
Over the years, there were a few underground private screenings of the documentary in Singapore, where viewers feared arrest. This year, the Singapore International Film Festival screened the film on October 25 during their New Waves program, with Mad’s 79-year-old mother in attendance. However, audience members had to pre-submit questions and were not allowed to stay for the online filmmaker Q&A recording, which has yet to be uploaded. Right now, Mad’s documentary is still under a permanent ban in Singapore.
As Mad said, “I had hoped for a complete lift of the ban, but I’m excited that it screened at all. It has been my dream to screen my film in Singapore. It is my birthplace. It was incredibly exciting.” She originally left Singapore at the age of 23 to avoid government arrest for her unauthorized feminist plays, illegal DIY lesbian zine, and organizing as a young artist-activist.
If you would like to watch or screen Sambal Belacan in San Francisco, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bay Area Reporter
Mad Interview by Cheryl Leong