Malaysia Censors Gay Sex Scenes In 'Rocketman,' Drawing Criticism

The distributor of Elton John's musical biopic, however, said it "respects" the government's rules.
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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malaysia has censored gay sex scenes in 鈥淩ocketman,鈥 the movie musical based on the life of British singer Elton John, sparking condemnation from art critics on Thursday that the country was becoming a 鈥渘anny state.鈥

Film buffs in the Southeast Asian country also took to social media to post criticism of the cuts, which included scenes depicting gay sex and men kissing, after 鈥淩ocketman鈥 was released in Malaysian cinemas last week.

鈥淲e do not allow any scenes that promote LGBTQ in films that are for public viewing,鈥 Safaruddin Mohammad Ali, who heads Malaysia鈥檚 Film Censorship Board鈥檚 films unit, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

鈥淎lthough it is about the real life of Elton John, it is not for him to allow the public to see whatever he does or whatever activities he indulges in that is not our culture.鈥

Sodomy is a crime punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country of 32 million which is also home to a large number of other religious minorities.

Safaruddin and the film鈥檚 local distributor, United International Pictures, refused to disclose how many scenes were cut, and the latter said it 鈥渞espects鈥 the government鈥檚 rules.

鈥淩ocketman,鈥 starring actor Taron Egerton, tracks John鈥檚 first steps in the music business, from his piano playing as a child to his explosion onto the U.S. scene and its drug and alcohol-fueled party world.

It has received a rating restricting it to viewers who are 18 years old and above in Malaysia.

鈥淲e don鈥檛 need a nanny state,鈥 said Malaysian TV personality and art critic Sharaad Kuttan, who has watched 鈥淩ocketman.鈥

鈥淕overnments today cannot control the representation of the LGBT community and individuals - they are fighting a losing battle,鈥 he said, referring to the popularity of streaming TV platforms such as Netflix.

In June, 72-year-old John condemned Russia for censoring gay sex and drug scenes in 鈥淩ocketman,鈥 while Samoa banned the film over its depiction of homosexuality.

Malaysia鈥檚 film censors have in the past blocked movies deemed religiously insensitive while the 2017 release of Walt Disney鈥檚 鈥淏eauty and the Beast鈥 was held up over a 鈥済ay moment鈥 in the film.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor.Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women鈥檚 and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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