In Sambal Belacan in San Francisco (1997), three first-generation immigrant Asian lesbians from Singapore grapple to create home and belonging. This award-winning documentary explores how cultural identity, lesbian sexuality, and immigration status raise powerful questions about belonging. Combining scripted scenes, cinema verité, poetry, interviews, and newsreel footage, this mixed-genre film visually conveys the multi-layered experiences of immigrant Asian lesbians living in the U.S.

Sambal Belacan in San Francisco won the 1997 Award of Excellence from the San Jose Film & Video Commission’s Joey Awards and the 1998 National Educational Media Network’s Bronze Apple Award. It was featured at sold-out theaters on the international film festival circuit around the world for over two years and was broadcast on PBS to 2.5 million Bay Area viewers.

In 1998, the film was banned in Singapore due to its frank portrayal of nationality, race, and sexuality. In October 2020, the Singaporean government issued a one-time exception to their ban and allowed the Singapore International Film Festival to screen “Sambal Belacan” in San Francisco at their pre-festival program New Waves. The film was slapped with an R21 classification rating. Due to government regulations, it screened to an audience of just 33 people, including Madeleine Lim’s mother.

If you would like to watch or screen Sambal Belacan in San Francisco, please email

Bronze Apple Winner, National Educational Media Network, Apple Awards 1998
Award of Excellence, San Jose Film & Video Commission, Joey Awards 1997

Amnesty International Film Festival, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Boston International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, MA
Charlotte Film & Video Festival, NC
Chicago Asian American Film Festival, IL
Chicago Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, IL
Chicago Lesbian of Color Film Festival, IL
Denver International Women’s Film Festival, CO
Hong Kong Queer Film Festival, Hong Kong
Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, HI
London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, UK
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, CA
Los Angeles Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, CA
Mary Riepma Poss Film Festival, NE
Mill Valley Film Festival, CA
Minneapolis Asian American Film Festival, MN
Minsk Human Rights Film Festival, Belarus
New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, NY
North Carolina Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, NC
Other America Film Festival, Antonio, TX
Paris Lesbian Film Festival, France
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, CA
San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, CA
Singapore International Film Festival, Singapore
Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada
Vancouver International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Canada
Women of Color Film Festival, UC Berkeley, CA

PBS broadcast to 2.5 million viewers in the Bay Area

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA
Houston Fine Arts Museum, Houston, Texas

Bates College, Lewiston, ME
Brown University, Providence, RI
De Anza College, Cupertino, CA
Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH
Rice University, Houston, TX
San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA
University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, CO
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Washington State University, Pullman, WA
National University of Singapore, Singapore

New York City Lesbian & Gay Community Center, NY
Paris Lesbian of Color Center, France
Philadelphia Asian Arts Initiative, PA
San Francisco Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, CA
San Francisco Community United Against Violence, CA
San Francisco Public Library, CA
Studio ATAO, CA

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Two Asian women gaze lovingly at each other as they lie in bed, lit with warm yellow and purple lights. At the top, black text reads Sambal Belacan in San Francisco, A Film By Madeleine Lim. On the left, white text across an ombre magenta and violet triangle reads WOMEN我們: From Her to Here. Below is the Chinese Culture Center logo. In the lower right corner is the QWOCMAP logo.