News and Opinions

Review: Taking Woodstock

Written by nei on . Posted in Entertainment

The original Woodstock Festival took place in 1969 and was later known as a pivotal cultural moment in history. It originated as a corporate venture that brought great artists together in front of a 500,000-strong audience. In 1970, a documentary was made about the music festival. Elliot Tiber, the man who offered the use of his family property to the festival’s organisers, published his story in 2007. Subsequently, Ang Lee (of Brokeback Mountain fame) based his movie Taking Woodstock on Elliot’s memoir.

This, of course, I learnt from Wikipedia. Yes, I am unfortunately quite bereft of music history knowledge and shockingly clueless about the hippie subculture. Fortunately for me, I found the movie quite accessible, and I think that Ang Lee was throwing the net wide, allowing those of us who may not know their pop culture history to have their heartstrings tugged by a simple, human story.

Taking Woodstock is, at heart, the timeless, tireless tale of a young man’s journey. While putting together the music festival, Elliot also finds freedom and courage, and we gradually get to know him, his family, the circumstances surrounding his life and what it could have been like for a gay man growing up in those times. Demetri Martin gives a believable, heartfelt performance as Elliot, so I was surprised to hear that he is mostly known for being a comedian. The entire cast delivers a stellar show, from the excellent Liev Schreiber as the crossdressing Vilma to Elliot’s inimitable parents. The storytelling is fairly well-paced, with a good mix of comedy and drama that keep the slower scenes at the beginning interesting.

With so much going on in the foreground, the actual music of Woodstock becomes mere backdrop. Ang Lee’s Woodstock is far from a documentary about the times, or even about Woodstock itself. I would prefer to call it a portrait of the emotional life of the times. The movie brings home the peripherals of Woodstock, personalising the environment and culture without trying to show what many would call the heart of it – the music. For me it was like a sepia photograph, giving a layer of reality to the sixties without taking the tint of nostalgia from it. This was perhaps the filmmaker’s recognition that no one could capture the grandeur of such a cultural icon.

As a portrait, I thought it was very successful. I caught a glimpse of a bohemian laissez-faire, an idealistic attitude to life that wasn’t afraid of being spiritual, trying new things, being different or just being. The movie shows us the beauty of an era that was ripening into a particular brand of individualism and an increased acceptance of LGBT people in the world.

Taking Woodstock clearly celebrates the hippie culture, although it does raise some possibly problematic issues such as drug and alcohol use. LGBT viewers may also be able to relate to Elliot’s closeted situation and the tug between familial obligation and being true to yourself.

I enjoyed the movie a lot for what it is, a sweet and funny confection that opens up a world of ambiguous promise.

Review: “The Abomination of the Blue Hibiscus” by Ovidia Yu

Written by Indu on . Posted in Entertainment

The Abomination of the Blue Hibiscus is a short story by Ovidia Yu, published in the Year’s Best Lesbian Fiction 2008 edited by Fran Walker. She requested that I review the story, whether or not I read the entire book.

Hibiscus is a short, heart-warming story about a lesbian woman and her partner, at her mother’s funeral. Clearly Ovidia seems to love this theme – story actually reminded me quite a bit of the story she wrote a couple of years ago and read at our Indignation event, Tall Tales and Short Stories, called Pierced Years. Personally, I much preferred Pierced Years to Hibiscus, though both are valuable contributions to the corpus of Singaporean lesbian literature.

But what makes this story different is the closetted homophobic maiden aunt character that is more central than the couple themselves. The character was quite obviously inspired by a “well-loved” persona, and quite hateable in her portrayal, but with a resigned acceptance of her place in the family. Having said that, I found the characterisation too much of a caricature, and perhaps it could have been toned down a little, made more subtle. I also much loved the way blue hibiscuses were used in the story.

Hibiscus stands out for its layered family relationships laced with shades of acceptance.  While not Ovidia’s best work, the story is readable. I had a chance to read some of the other stories at random (but not the entire book), and I can say the stories are not too bad – some of them are cliche and sometimes centres too much on the lesbian identity, but as a collection, it is worth having on your bookshelf.

Year’s Best Lesbian Fiction 2008 is available at Books Actually.

AWARE fundraiser (Singapore)

Written by snorkeem on . Posted in Announcements

Have you booked your seats for The Blue Mansion?

The Blue Mansion

Don’t miss the special screening of Glen Goei’s latest film The Blue Mansion on 15th October. It’s a fundraising premiere and the net proceeds will go to AWARE.

Don’t miss the special screening of Glen Goei’s latest film The Blue Mansion on 15th October. It’s a fundraising premiere and the net proceeds will go to AWARE.

There will be a pre-movie cocktail reception where you can meet Glen and members of his cast. They include Lim Kay Siu, Adrian Pang, Neo Swee Lin, Emma Yong, Claire Wong, Tan Kheng Hua, and Huzir Sulaiman.

Remember to bring your business card because there will be a business card draw and you could win a 4-hour cruise valued at $3,000, with soft drinks and snacks, for 10 people on this yacht.

Buy a block of 20 seats and you will get:
A token of appreciation from Glen
A photo session with Glen and the cast members.
If your company buys blocks of 10 or 20 seats, we’ll put your company’s logo on our webpage and other material.

Get all the sponsorship details here.
Event details:
Date: Thursday 15th October
Venue: GV Grand 6, Great World City
(Cocktail reception at the Garden Terrace)
Time: 7.30pm

Price: Tickets are $50 each (Tax deductible)
Book your seats now – send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Rina at 6779-7137

Review 2: No More Daddy’s Little Girl

Written by (Guest Writers) on . Posted in Entertainment

Note from the editors: In the recent weeks, we published a review of the book No More Daddy’s Little Girl by Karen Lee. That review generated much heated discussion by people on both sides of the camp about the merits of the book. In order to give our readers both sides of the story, we are a publishing a reader-submitted review offering a different view from the previous. Neither reviews are indicative of Sayoni’s official view in any way.

This guest writer goes by the name of Jane Jones.

Two weeks ago, a friend handed me No More Daddy’s Little Girl, after we had casually discussed the one official review posted so far and some negative opinions by our mutual acquaintances. I had not been inclined to read the book when I first heard of it, as I had the notion that autobiographies ought only to be written by people of special interest or distinction, with something important to address and educate others about. Coming out stories are a dime a dozen, and ordinary people tend not to write an entire autobiography on this selling point alone. Curiosity began to replace vague disinterest. Are the review and opinions accurate or justified? It was only fair that I read the book and decide for myself. And so over the weekend, I did.

From reading the blurb and proud declaration that it is the first local lesbian autobio, I had expected this book to illuminate me on how Karen discovered herself vis-a-vis her sexuality and came out in the end (no pun intended) triumphant over the obstacles in her way to lead a life with love and acceptance from her faith, family, friends and herself. I expected that most of the life experiences recounted in her book would be in respect of this, her discovery and journey of being lesbian. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that the book failed to deliver on these expectations.

Taking Woodstock Fundraising Gala Premiere, Sep 30 (Singapore)

Written by sayoni on . Posted in Announcements



Date: Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Time: 21:00 – 23:00

Location: Shaw Lido 1 (Shaw Centre, Scotts Road)

Fridae presents the Taking Woodstock Fundraising Gala Premiere in Singapore on Sep 30. 100% of ticket sales will go towards funding gay-related community projects.

Directed by Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (who brought us what were to become gay classics The Wedding Banquet and Brokeback Mountain), Taking Woodstock is based on the memoirs of a young gay man Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin). Tiber, then a struggling young interior designer in New York City, had recently returned to his parents’ rundown motel in the Catskill Mountains when he heard that a planned concert had lost its permit from the neighbouring town of Wallkill. He then called producer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) at Woodstock Ventures providing a much-needed performance permit and offering his motel as the production headquarters.

The 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, which attracted 500,000 people, turned out to be one of the most iconic events of the hippie generation and is today widely regarded to be one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music history.

100% of ticketing proceeds will go towards funding gay-related community projects.

Since 2005, Fridae has organised six movie-fundraisers raising over S$60,000 in benefit of a variety of NGOs including Action for AIDS, AWARE, Cat Welfare Society; two independent short films by Boo Junfeng and Loo Zihan; and Indignation – which Fridae has financially and in other ways supported since it was first held in 2005. Pink Dot, the first-ever official LGBT public gathering held in May 2009 in Singapore, was also a beneficiary of Fridae’s Milk Fundraising Gala Premiere held earlier this year.

Date: 30 Sep 2009 (Wednesday)
Time: 8 pm (Reception for VIPs from 7 pm)
Venue: Shaw Lido 1 (Shaw Centre, Scotts Road)
Tickets: USS$7 (Zuji Promotion) / US$10 (Standard) / S$50 (VIP*)
* VIP Tickets include goodie bags, pre-show reception and premium seats.

Ticketing and more info:

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