Singaporean filmmaker Lei Yuan Bin’s latest subject is local opera Tang, which has shaped the local drag scene since its debut in 2020.
Using vignettes from Tang’s life, the film, set in the Singapore Panorama Strand at the Singapore International Film Festival, chronicles the actress’ queer journey: from coming out as a young drag queen, to falling in love, to entering drag competitions and… Dress supportive 90 year old grandmother in drag.
Lei’s latest film, I Dream of Singapore, an observational documentary about the continuous flow of work from Bangladesh to Singapore and the bonds that are formed between social workers and migrant workers, premiered at the festival in 2019.
“Since I produce, direct, shoot and edit my own documentaries, my filmmaking involves spending months, if not years, on set with my subjects and away from other crew members. That’s why I choose to document people that I enjoy spending time with and who have a story that needs to be shared with more people. I find the love and bond, especially between Opera and her 90-year-old grandmother, touching and worth celebrating,” Lei said diversity.
“Baby Queen” premiered in Busan earlier this year. “The reception in Busan was fantastic,” said Lei. “We have received inquiries from film festivals and distributors. ‘Baby Queen’ will be touring the film festivals in 2023 and some screenings, like that at the Singapore International Film Festival, will be accompanied by a drag show.”
Tiger Tiger Pictures sponsored and produced Baby Queen under the Unseen Series label created by Glen Goei, a collection of original feature-length documentaries giving a voice to marginalized communities in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Baby Queen is part of an ongoing wave of Singapore films gaining international notoriety. “There is more public and private funding and infrastructure support for filmmakers in Singapore today. There are also new production companies, collectives and communities that have been formed to increase the quality and diversity of storytelling and filmmaking,” Lei said.
All of this comes at a time when Singapore authorities have been sending mixed messages to the LGBTQ community. Earlier this year, the Singapore government said it would decriminalize same-sex relationships but also strengthen the heteronormative basis of marriage. The InfoComm Media Development Authority, which regulates the media and entertainment sector, said the changes would not ease content controls.
Lei is open to ideas for his next film, which could be either a documentary or a feature, and he hopes to work with young filmmakers.
“Baby Queen” plays at the festival on November 30th.
https://variety.com/2022/film/news/singapore-drag-queen-film-baby-queen-1235441518/ Singapore drag queen film Baby Queen will be screened on SGIFF