ST Life!: Love ladies (April 6)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

April 6, 2008
Love ladies

A documentary about three lesbians has become a quiet hit at the
Singapore International Film Festival
By Deepika Shetty

When Su-Lin Ngiam posted an online call in 2006 asking lesbians to
share their experiences for a documentary she wanted to make, no one
came forward.

'It shows there is a lot of fear when it comes to talking about same
sex relationships in public,' says the theological studies student.

Given the lack of response from the community, Ngiam, 34, turned to
her friends and three agreed to talk on camera.

MsSabrina Renee Chong, 40, a freelance events consultant and
photographer, MsAmanda Lee, 24, a student, and MsGea Swee Jean, 24, a
business & IT marketing professional are featured in the 65-minute
documentary, Women Who Love Women: Conversations In Singapore.

The documentary, which has an R21 rating, has proven to be a small hit
at the Singapore International Film Festival. Four screenings have
already sold out and tickets to the fifth screening today are selling

The documentary is being screened at Sinema, Old School, in Mount
Sophia, which has a seating capacity of 130.

Mr Philip Cheah, 50, the festival director, says the documentary has
made an impact because 'you see people as themselves. The fact that
these women have come such a long way in realising their dreams is
moving people and encouraging them to watch it.'

Director Lim Mayling, 28, an events coordinator who studied
film-making, says she is surprised at the warm response. The
documentary was screened privately last year at the Pelangi Pride
Centre in Tanjong Pagar.

She says she shot the three women talking about their lives and the
'talking heads'' technique goes against what she was taught in her
media studies course at the University of Buffalo in the United States.

'But in this case, it works, it is the story of their lives and my
idea was to get it across as honestly as I could.'

Ms Chong says she agreed to appear in the documentary because she
wants to share her experience with other people who are in the same

'When I was growing up, the Internet was non-existent, there were
hardly any support groups, you couldn't come clean.'

She says that she never came out to her family 'officially'. Her
parents split up when she was two years old and she was brought up by
her grandmother and other relatives. Her father later died and her
mother is in Canada.

'My grandmother knew about my sexual orientation but we never talked
about it. But she and my relatives accepted it.'

Her girlfriend, a 30-year-old producer, joins her family at family events.

Ms Lee, an undergraduate at the Australian National University,
Canberra, had a harder time with her family when she told her mother
that she is gay.

There were 'a lot of tears, angry words' and her mother, an office
administrator, refused to accept her sexual orientation.

'Our relationship deteriorated because I could not share an important
part of my life with her.''

But her mother has since come around and comforted her when one of her
relationships failed, she says.

The third woman in the documentary, Ms Gea, declined to be interviewed.

Ms Chong thinks that the climate has become more tolerant of gay
people in recent years. Government leaders have spoken of treating
homosexuals like everybody else and employing them in the civil
service. She says: 'People don't fall backwards when they see gay
women holding hands.'

But the biggest comfort for her has been the acceptance of her family.

'When my grandmother passed away when I was in my late 20s, my
girlfriend and I were by her side. I think what was important for me
was the fact that my grandmother loved me unconditionally through all
of it.'

Women Who Love Women: Conversations In Singapore is showing at the
Singapore International Film Festival. For details, visit

'When my grandmother passed away, my girlfriend and I were by her
side. I think what was important for me was the fact that my
grandmother loved me unconditionally through all of it.'