In the opening scenes of the most daring film to come out of Singapore this year, a young man accosts the head of the board of censors in a supermarket and declares he is her biggest fan. \n"I know every film you have ever cut in the history of Singapore," he enthuses, before reeling off the names of 24 movies and 99 cuts made and thanking her for "shielding us from the evils of arts". \nThe sarcasm-drenched 13-minute film Cut was made without a permit by one of Singapore's few controversial filmmakers, 27-year-old drama teacher Royston Tan. \nSpeaking to foreign reporters recently, Tan said the movie, which has recorded tens of thousands of downloads from a local Web site, was made out of frustration at the Singapore government's famous "nanny state" mentality. \nIt followed 27 cuts being made to his highly acclaimed feature film last year about Singapore's gang culture, 15, which he said the government censored heavily because gang chants and other aspects were deemed a threat to national security. \n"Trying to enact censorship out of paranoia does more harm than good. Censorship closes the door on debate," Tan said, offering a much more subdued reflection of the issue than his main character in Cut. \n"Being our nanny, you are exposed to all the uncensored and controversial scenes. What I would really like to know [is] who looks after your welfare?" the besotted young man in Cut asks the censorship chief. \n"How do you resist the evil temptations to be a call girl when you watch the uncut version of Chicago, a drug addict when you watch the uncut Trainspotting, a lesbian when you watch Boys don't cry?" \nTan's release of Cut came at a sensitive time for the Singapore government, which has been trying to project a more open-minded approach after years of international headlines ridiculing the city-state. \nLaws banning things such as oral sex between consenting adults, the sale of Cosmopolitan magazine and chewing gum have proved wonderful fodder for correspondents and editors looking for quirky stories. \nOver the past year, the government has modified the oral sex law to allow the act between men and women, has announced gays are allowed to work in the civil service, has introduced reverse bungee jumping, let certain bars stay open 24 hours a day and said people can chew gum, albeit on a restricted basis. \nDeputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who will take over as the nation's leader this year, acknowledged in January that the "nanny state" approach was having some negative impacts on Singaporean society. \n"If we want a more participatory citizenry, the government will have [to[ cut the apron strings and leave more matters to the private and people sectors," Lee said in an address to international businessmen. \nBut Tan and another prominent social campaigner, gay rights activist Alex Au, believe the government's efforts are little more than window dressing. \n"Every announced loosening-up has been followed by waffle and scaling back, if not altogether contradicted by subsequent decisions, as the gay example indicates," Au told foreign reporters in a separate forum. \nAu's People Like Us group, which represents Singapore's gay and lesbian community, has been trying to be registered as a society since 1996. \nHomosexuality is still illegal and the most recent effort by Au's group for registration failed in March. \nIn its rejection, the government said allowing People Like Us to form as a society would be "contrary to the national interest." \nAu said this attitude reflected a still-deeply entrenched conservatism within Singapore's government. The People's Action Party has ruled the majority Chinese population since the nation's independence in 1965. \n"My opinion is that this so-called liberalization... is really driven by economics -- to attract and retain talent -- and not by any belief in the lasting though intangible value of a liberal political culture," Au said. \nAnd despite Lee saying he was in favor of weakening "nanny's" role, he told parliament in April he was still much more comfortable with Singapore's social attitudes remaining 20 years behind those of the US and Britain. \n"If you are absolutely up at the leading edge in matters of social change, you are never quite sure whether the leading edge has taken a wrong turn, needs to back-track and make a U-turn," he said.
Sept.13 to Sept.19 Fu Pei-mei (傅培梅) leafed through the telephone book and jotted down the address of every prestigious Taipei restaurant she could find. She then mailed out her request: “Seeking famous chefs to learn cooking from, high pay.” A star student from a wealthy family in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, Fu never bothered with cooking growing up. After fleeing her hometown at the age of 15 due to the Chinese Civil War, she eventually ended up in Taiwan, where she held a number of clerical jobs in Taipei. She enjoyed office work, especially since the company provided meals. This was the 1950s, however, and
Last week the Transitional Justice Commission proposed taking down the statue of Chang Kai-shek (蔣介石) at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in central Taipei. It depicted the move as part of a plan for excising markers of authoritarianism from the park. The most important task, the commission said, would be removing the hall’s “axis of worship,” the 6.3m-tall bronze statue of Chiang. Let us hope that if and when that obscenity is finally removed from the memorial, it is placed in the famed Cihu Memorial Sculpture Garden in Taoyuan’s Dasi District (大溪), where it can be properly mocked for all eternity. CHIANG,
The pandemic seems to be far from over, but the Post Pandemic Renaissance Theater (PPRT) is getting a head start by putting on its first event last Friday: the first round of the Taiwan Monologue Slam. Ten contestants delivered passionate and nuanced pieces on stage, and the audience voted with their phones for two winners who will advance to the local finals in November. There will be four finals in the next year, and each winner is automatically entered into the World Monologue Games regional finals, bypassing the preliminaries. The goal is to eventually get a Taiwan team to next summer’s games,
As dozens of pro-China lawmakers in Hong Kong’s legislature stood up in May to heap praise on a bill giving Beijing an effective veto over candidates in the city’s elections, only one legislator condemned the move. “Cronyism will be the primary prerequisite for this election,” said Cheng Chung-tai, by then the legislature’s sole directly elected opposition member, after the others had either resigned or been removed. “Corruption is bound to happen,” he told the assembly at the time. By late last month, Cheng had been stripped of his seat by the committee he had criticized, which ruled that he didn’t “genuinely uphold”