I. Ghost Empire § Cyprus (2014)

Ghost Empire § Cyprus looks at the numerous recent arrests of gay men in Northern Turkish occupied Cyprus, including even the former Finance Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, under a British colonial law dating from 1889. 'Ghost Empire § Cyprus looks at the internationally unrecognised North of Cyprus, the last divided capital of Europe, and also the last place in Europe to criminalise homosexuality and explores the ghosts of European history (and perhaps future) such as nationalism.
 The film talks to lawyers involved in a case taken to the European Court of Human Rights, and the ultimate repeal of the law in January 2014. The film also charts the first Pride Parades in May 2014.

The case is a legal paradox, trying to legalise something in a place that is itself not legally recognised. Filiz talks of the bicommunal Greek and Turkish Cypriot queer conference which she has just organised in the buffer zone, which had a number of international activists in attendance. I am struck by this holding of the conference in ‘no man’s land’. As if to be queer is also to occupy a kind of no man’s land, as if one does not truly belong anywhere.
When I went back to Cyprus post-repeal, to film the first Pride and attend the film festival, I was struck by the visible change in the North, and by the number of bars flying rainbow flags, the visibility of people on the march, a sense of a weight lifted. This is conveyed in the change from black and white to colour in the film. The decision to place all interviewees in a kind of buffer zone or behind the bars of a kind of prison, or perhaps simply recorded on a phone, came about quite naturally during the editing process. We were dealing with a fractured landscape and identities; it didn’t make sense for the screen to be filled and whole throughout. By placing everyone in the centre, there was an attempt also to transcend any nationalisms in a deliberately queer and feminist positioning. It was important to me to interweave the conflict with LGBT issues within the film and see how the one impacts on the other. There is also an exploration of nationalisms and how these interact with LGBT politics. The interesting echo of a multiplicity of flags in the two parts of the film (Turkish occupying/rainbow Pride) gently raises currently debated questions around homonationalism and nationalism in general. The use of black screen at various points during the film, including for over 2 minutes at the beginning of the film, was intended to evoke the prohibitions surrounding photography there, especially the border, the ‘forbidden zones’ or anything military. It was also intended to resemble a weak radio signal, as if the film flickers in and out, like a land that is in intermittent and difficult communication with the outside world. Investigating representation and conflict and who and what gets to be represented, this also echoes the ‘missing pictures’ Resat mentions; his family ‘give back some old pictures’ to the visiting Greek family who own the house in which they live.

Credits


Director / Cinematographer / Producer: Susan Thomson 
Editor: Fernando de Juan
Composer: Alcyona Mick
Additional camera: Filiz Bilen 
Sound mix: Jon Kelly
Curatorial consultant: Tone Olaf Nielsen

Screenings

2017 Stuart Hall Library, INIVA, Institute of International Visual Arts, London 

2017 Tales from the Margins, LGBTQ TV, Brighton
2017 Scottish Government, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, screening for LGBT History Month 2017 Edinburgh University, Cinema Room, screening supported by LGBT Staff Network
2016 Dublin Castle in association with Temple Bar Cultural Trust screening & lecture 
2016 Official Selection Kashish 7th Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 
2016 Culture Unplugged Film Festival 
2015 Official Selection Direct Short and Documentary Film Festival
2015 Official Selection MICGénero, Muestra Internacional de Cine con Perspectivo de
Género, Mexico City, (Film Festival with a Gender Perspective) screened together with Ghost Empire § Singapore 
(2014) as 94 minute feature film: Nomination for Best International Film Cinemex Reforma, Mexico City Cinemex Insurgentes, Mexico City
Centro Cultural San Pablo, Oaxaca Colef University, Tijuana, Mexico 
2015 Official Selection at World of Film International Festival, CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland In competition Shorts: Female perspective
2014 Official Selection Northern Cyprus Film Festival, EMAA European Mediterranean Arts Association, Nicosia, Cyprus 
2013 Oct 11 – Dec 23 Upending Troubling Ireland group exhibition in association with Fire Station Artists’ Studios and Kuratorisk Aktion at Limerick City art gallery, Ireland

2017: 
TV Interview Tales from the Margins
Interview INIVA, London
Podcast INIVA, London



II. Ghost Empire § Singapore (2014) 

Ghost Empire § Singapore looks at the anti-homosexuality law in Singapore, Section 377A, which criminalises male homosexuality with up to two years prison sentence. A British colonial law, it is based on the Victorian era Labouchere amendment, the same law which criminalised Oscar Wilde in England a century ago. The film follows two constitutional challenges being taken by Tan Eng Hong and Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee between 2010 and 2014, one resulting from a conviction as the result of sex in a public toilet, the other brought by a couple who have been together 16 years. This is a film in the Ghost Empire series, which looks at the impact of British colonialism on LGBT rights around the world. Half of the countries which currently criminalise homosexuality use British colonial laws or revised versions of these laws. The film also explores state censorship and space, with footage from the Pink Dot, a quasi Pride, which takes place in Hong Lim Park, the only space in the whole of Singapore where it is possible to protest at all. Relating to theorists such as Chomsky and Foucault, the Pink Dot appears to act as a loophole, a safety net, propping up the system of control which is clearly delineated here but which exists in all governmental systems. The film also explores Christianity and other colonial legacies including the death penalty.

Credits


Directed / Filmed / Produced: Susan Thomson 
Editor: Fernando de Juan 
Composer: Alcyona Mick
Dialogue, Sound fx editing and final mix: Jay Price
Dialogue Editor: Richard Fordham 
Colourist: Ian de Brí 
Animation: Sara Berntsson
Curatorial consultant: Tone Olaf Nielsen 
Interviewees: M. Ravi, Alex Au, Siew Kum Hong, Lynette Chua,Vincent Wijeysingha, Su-Lin Ngiam, Bryan Choong, Gary Lim, Kenneth Chee, Téa Braun

Screenings

2017 SOAS Queer Asia Film Festival and conference, London

2017 Tales from the Margins, LGBTQ TV, Brighton
2017 Edinburgh University, Cinema Room, supported by LGBT Staff Network
2016 Anthology Film Archives, New York City with NewFilmmakers NY as an AltFest Special Program 
2015 Official Selection MICGénero, Muestra Internacional de Cine con Perspectivo de Género, Mexico City, (Film Festival with a Gender Perspective) screened together with Ghost Empire § Cyprus (2014) as a 94 minute feature film: Nomination for Best International Film Cinemex Reforma, Mexico City
Cinemex Insurgentes, Mexico City
Centro Cultural San Pablo, Oaxaca Colef University, Tijuana, Mexico 
2015 Official Selection Unspoken Human Rights Film Festival, Utica, New York 
2015 Official Selection Direct Short and Documentary Film Festival, Award for Best Feature July 2015 
2015 Yale NUS, National University of Singapore organized by Faculty of Law and G-Spot


III. Ghost Empire § Belize (2018)

Ghost Empire § Belize will examine the constitutional challenge being taken by Caleb Orozco against Section 53, a 19th century British colonial law which criminalises acts “against the order of nature”. Opposition to the case by evangelical Christian groups, funded by The Religious Right in the U.S., has included symbolic hangings of an effigy of LGBT group Unibam, and Orozco has been subjected to numerous death threats and assaults. The film will document the fights between opposing sides through Twitter, Facebook and mainstream media. Referring to other legacies of colonialism, the film will have a recurring sequence in sepia of the road which was formerly the colonial slave trade logging route for the export of mahogany and blue tinted sea imagery evoking colonial era ships and the early silent era of films and the colour tinting process. It will also feature images of Independence day parades and examine the question of slavery reparations.

Credits


Director / Cinematographer / Producer: Susan Thomson 
Editor: Fernando de Juan 
Composer: Alcyona Mick
Curatorial Consultant: Tone Olaf Nielsen