People can call us stupid, LPF chair says amid ‘Beauty’ censorship

A woman takes a picture of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ poster displayed at a cinema in Kuala Lumpur March 16, 2017. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A woman takes a picture of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ poster displayed at a cinema in Kuala Lumpur March 16, 2017. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — The Film Censorship Board (LPF) said it could not ignore rules on editing movie scenes, especially those with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) elements.

LPF chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid told the Sunday edition of local New Straits Times that Malaysia does not recognise the LGBT “ideology” and thus had to propose cuts of four minutes and 38 seconds’ long in the highly-anticipated Disney’s live remake of Beauty and the Beast.

“If we let these scenes go, people will wonder if Malaysia recognised LGBT.

“People can call us stupid or ignorant for the censorship we have imposed. I can accept it, but I don’t have to respond to it,” he was quoted as saying in the New Sunday Times.

Abdul Halim explained that three parts from the movies were deemed as “inappropriate for Malaysian audience”.

“The first is during the performance of a song, where a male character (Le Fou) hugs the other (Gaston) from behind.

“Second is the suggestive song lyrics with sexual innuendoes,” he was quoted as saying.

As for the third scene that ostensibly takes place at the end of the movie, the report said it could not be mentioned for “spoiler reasons”.

Abdul Halim reportedly said that LPF could have allowed the film with “minor” cuts if film director Bill Condon had not announced that the movie contained “a first exclusively gay moment”.

“We could have let it go with potentially minor cut and this whole thing would not have become an issue.

“But the moment the ‘gay element’ is thrown into the mix, we had to protect ourselves, so what was initially three second, has become more than four minutes,” he was quoted as saying.

Homosexuality is not illegal per se in Malaysia, but the country heavily criminalises sodomy that is punishable with imprisonment, corporal punishment and fines.

He attributed the uproar over LPF’s decision as a “natural knee-jerk reaction”.

“On our part, we have a job to do and we can’t make mistakes. If there is a public outcry when the movie is released, we will have to bear the consequences,” he was quoted as saying.

On allowing gorier and supposedly violent movies like Deadpool and Logan with 18-above classification, Abdul Halim said this showed that LPF has depicted a more lenient stand on editing these days.

For horror movies, he said so long a movie does not use Quranic verses for the wrong reasons, such as bringing back dead people or communicating with the dead, it will be allowed.

“These guidelines are issued by Jakim (Islamic Development Department). If none of these elements are present, then we will consider them as fantasy,” he was quoted as saying.

On censorship, Abdul Halim said LPF was only tasked to notify local distributors of the scenes needed to be censored, adding that the film studios will then edit the movies themselves.

He added that film distributors and producers could then appeal against the decision with the Film Appeals Committee.

In the case of Beauty and the Beast, Disney Malaysia has reportedly submitted the film for an appeal to overturn LPF’s decision.

The news report said that the censor board had banned 10 movies last year and 11 in 2015 because they contained “sex scenes, obscene utterances, and excessive violence as well as scenes that touched on political, religious and cultural sensitivities”.

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