I first heard about Solos from Kan Lume, whom I met at the 2006 Singapore International Film Festival. His directorial debut film, The Art of Flirting was one of four local films that had been selected to screen at the festival and he shared with me his thoughts of his second film project and his vision to make a film that would inspire other local filmmakers to “go out and make it happen”.
Although Solos is largely centered on a teacher-student homosexual relationship, the film was not made to validate or criticize any form of lifestyle. Instead, we decided to
make the film to reflect the repercussions of such relationships in the real world.
Kan introduced me to Loo Zihan, with whom Kan had previously worked on a short film Untitled which was later developed into Solos. Untitled won the top prize at Take 5! Guerrilla Film Making Challenge 2005 with the Singapore History Museum. Loo had written the screenplay for Solos and wanted to work on the feature film together with Kan.
I was convinced that I wanted to work with the directors, and that this film had an important message – “Singaporeans should open up” – whether it be mindsets, mentality, creativity, or just breaking down the walls of silence. The premise of the story was inspired by true events of a teacher-student relationship, which is generally considered a taboo topic in most societies and we wanted to explore how far we could go pushing the boundaries of such a topic.
The film was originally scheduled to have its world premiere at the 2007 Singapore International Film Festival but we decided to cancel all planned public screenings for
the festival when we were informed that our local censors required the film to have 3 cuts.
I am grateful to Goh Guat Kian and Lim Yu-Beng, two veteran stage actors who took a leap of faith in the film in the directors and me when we approached them to be part
of the team. For Goh, it was her first theatrical film role after more than 20 years of experience on the theatre stage. For Lim, this was his first feature film that required him to appear naked in front of the camera and perform intimate acts with another male. A challenging task for any actor.
Making this film has been a great experience for me. I have come to realize that the most important thing in filmmaking is having a great vision. And that vision comes together and onto the big screen when a talented team works together to make it happen.
Above all, Solos is a brave film. Brave for two young filmmakers to attempt a realistic and non-judgmental portrayal of an inter-generational gay relationship. Brave to make the film in Singapore, where even normal homosexuality is generally condemned, and not entirely legal. Brave of a well-known straight Singapore actor to play the part of the sympathetic gay teacher – a role requiring a fair degree of nudity and physical affection. Brave of the filmmakers to tell their surreal style and with a somewhat non-linear structure. And brave of them to attempt a feature film with only visual imagery, sound and music. A profoundly emotional story without any dialog whatsoever - how could they possibly succeed? But they
do. And even more amazingly, they make it look easy!