No show for Eric Khoo's erotic film in cinemas here

The Media Development Authority has not classified his drama, In The Room, because of its explicit depictions of sex

A scene from In The Room with actress Josie Ho (centre) as mamasan and her girls.
A scene from In The Room with actress Josie Ho (centre) as mamasan and her girls. PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Singapore film-maker Eric Khoo's erotic drama In The Room premiered at the Singapore International Film Festival on Tuesday night, but it cannot be shown in cinemas here.

The Media Development Authority has decided not to classify it for commercial release, even as it passed the film uncut with an R21 rating for its screening at the Singapore International Film Festival.

Festival films are given more leeway than commercial releases.

This was revealed by Khoo and the movie's producers at a press conference on Tuesday. Without even an R21 classification, the most restrictive, the film is barred from commercial release here.

Khoo, 49, says he refuses to release the work in an edited form for the sake of getting a rating.

In The Room, directed by him and written by Jonathan Lim and Andrew Hook, consists of six short stories taking place over different decades in room 27 in the fictional Singapura Hotel.

Dedicated to late author Damien Sin, it features a pan-Asian cast and a screenplay inspired by the soft-core foreign works of the 1970s, including The Story Of O (1975) and Emmanuelle (1974), but with references to moments in Singapore's cultural and social history.

The cast includes Hong Kong actress Josie Ho, Lawrence Wong from Malaysia and Choi Woo Shik from South Korea.

Ms Shi Nansun, one of the movie's producers, says: "This is a film about Singapore and we would very much like to release it here. Eric, as director, feels that his vision will not be demonstrated properly if it was released with cuts."

The movie will get a commercial release in Hong Kong in January. It was screened at film festivals in Toronto, Canada, and Busan, South Korea, earlier this year.

Khoo confirms that the Media Development Authority's concerns about In The Room centred on its explicit depictions of sex, rather than on its themes. His team plans to appeal to the authority.

His first feature, the arthouse horror work Mee Pok Man, was also controversial when it was released in 1995, but was passed with an R(A) rating without cuts.

His last brush with the censors was in 1994, when his short film Pain was banned for depictions of torture. The ban was later lifted.

Since then, he has become one of Singapore's most recognised film- makers, through socially realistic dramas such as 12 Storeys (1997) and Be With Me (2005), which was selected for the Director's Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005.

He says : "It's sad. There's nothing really that contentious about my film. If I were to censor it, it would go against my principles as a film- maker."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'No show for Eric Khoo's erotic film in cinemas here'. Subscribe