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Controversial Singaporean filmmaker Ken Kwek, whose last movie was banned in the Southeast Asian city-state, debuted his latest feature, Unlucky Plaza, at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Kwek’s 2013 satire Sex.Violence.FamilyValues was banned by Singapore’s Board of Film Censors and by the Malaysian government. The decision caused public outrage, prompting censors to reverse their decision after Kwek made substantial cuts.
A black comedy about a down-on-his-luck Filipino immigrant who takes a group of prominent Singaporeans hostage, led by Adrian Pang playing an arrogant motivational speaker with a Porsche, a valuable art collection and a luxury home, Unlucky Plaza may also raise official hackles with its elements of social satire.
“After the ban on Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, I’m naturally diffident about the film being passed — or passed clean — by Singapore’s censors,” Kwek said. “There’s every chance the film will not be screened in my own country, which makes the screenings in Toronto even more special and encouraging. TIFF has gifted to me a sense of freedom as an artist that I don’t enjoy back home.”
Kwek said he felt embarrassed by the ban on Sex.Violence.FamilyValues.
“I felt a little apologetic about being part of a society that flagellates itself with such righteous abandon. This maybe is what makes Singapore more open and more intolerant, growing richer and poorer by the day. The tension created by these opposing forces leads us to Unlucky Plaza, a story about a hapless immigrant fighting for a stake in his adopted country only to find himself shafted from all directions,” he said.
Unlucky Plaza, based on a true story, features Filipino actor Epy Quizon (Pinoy Sunday), Singapore’s Adrian Pang (The Blue Mansion) and the stage and TV actress Judee Tan in her feature debut. The film was written and directed by Kwek, who also produced with Leon Tong and Kat Goh.
Media Luna picked up the world sales rights to Unlucky Plaza in advance of its bow at Toronto.
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Red Sea Film Festival