IT IS ENLISTMENT day and two men sit shoulder-length apart, distanced by silence, the void interrupted occasionally by the sound of chopsticks hitting on rice bowls.
It is the tension of a strained father-son relationship that Purple Light opens with, foreshadowing the greater fustrations that young recruit Zipeng will face as he comes to terms with his sexuality.
Inspired by an acquaintance of the director, as well as the many gay men who shared their experiences of National Service at subsequent interviews, the three-person team weave a story they hope would seem familiar to some.
Most Singaporean men go through the same ritual but I believe the experience for each differs
An acquaintance, Cecilia Ang (the film's director) said, was the chief inspiration of Purple Light. Subsequent interviews with other gay men on their National Service experience revealed that while “most Singaporean men go through the same ritual, the experience for each differs”. This was the fodder for the three-person team of SoapBar pictures, and they sought to weave a story that would be familiar to some, if not at least vaguely recognisable to others.
After nine 18-hour shooting days, with a series of unplanned shots and a near-death experience, the team is relieved when it was finally “a wrap!”
“We only started feeling good about the film when our friends walked out of the theatre and told us that they enjoyed it” said producer Charlene.
“I’ve even had some people asking me to make a lesbian version”, added Cecilia with a laugh.
Ultimately, Cecilia explains, Purple Light is a film about self-acceptance.
“Instead of feeling angry that people 'do not accept him', Zipeng eventually realizes that the acceptance of oneself is more important than gaining the acceptance of others. There is more to you than just your sexuality.”
While cleaning urinals as punishment in the film, Zipeng coyly asks his army buddy Ethan about his traffic light color. “Purple”, Ethan jokingly replies with a smile. They eventually fall in love but the fear of judgment forces them to suppress their true feelings for each other.