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Fri, Jul 24, 2009
Graduation speech became protest

A top graduate from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) turned his valedictorian speech into a protest of sorts at yesterday's commencement ceremony.

It was the graduation ceremony of the first batch of students from the School of Art, Design and Media.

Valedictorian Loo Zihan said he had wanted to talk about "integrity" and "breaking new boundaries" in his original speech but changed his mind due to a recent incident.

Last Friday, he received a note to change the poster for his thesis film as it was deemed "inappropriate" for display during the convocation ceremony. He said:

"My first thought was to make the changes to the poster as required - but subsequently, as I was practicing for this speech, I realized that I could not say the words I drafted originally with conviction and authority by subjecting my work to censorship which I did not understand. I felt a sense of responsibility to my fellow graduates, who have voted me in as Valedictorian to speak up on their behalf."

The poster for his film "Threshold" shows a shirtless man standing at a basin while hands from behind hold his left shoulder and waist. A mirror in front of him shows the reflection of another man.

It was on display at the school for more than two weeks but he was asked to modify it for display at the convocation as small children may be attending. It was eventually not displayed.

He also admitted that "some of my projects have been deliberately provocative" but believed that "this image was not such an example".

In the rest of the speech, he exhorted his fellow graduates to face challenges "objectively" and thanked all the families for their support. He also hailed their graduation as "local history in the making".

Not a stranger to controversy, Mr Loo stripped for a Singapore film "Pleasure Factory" directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham in 2007. He played a young army boy who sought to lose his virginity in Geylang.

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