Bill Condon made problem worse, says Malaysia’s film censor chief

Kuala Lumpur, March 19 (IANS) Had Bill Condon not spoken about “gay element” in “Beauty and the Beast”, the movie would have released in Malaysia, says Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, who heads Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board.

Hamid says censors sought over four minutes of material to be cut from the Disney film, which the makers refused. The film was then withdrawn from being released in Malaysia.

In an interview published on Sunday by New Straits Times, Hamid said the Censorship Board — known as the LPF — wanted to cut four minutes and 38 seconds from the film. The proposed cuts came in three places, reports variety.com.

The first was during the performance of a song where a male character (LeFou) hugs the other (Gaston) from behind. The second was a “suggestive song lyrics with sexual innuendos” and the third was an unidentified scene at the end of the movie.

“The length of the (proposed cut to the) song was about three seconds but we could not recommend a three-second cut as it would make the song choppy and people would be angry. The other cuts are on the actions,” said Hamid.

He also says Condon had made the problem more acute for the censors.

Hamid said that the LPF’s curiosity had been raised by the homosexual elements introduced into the live action film that were not present in the 1991 animated predecessor.

“Maybe if Condon had not mentioned the ‘gay element’, people wouldn’t be so curious and we could let it go with a potentially minor cut. And this whole thing may not have been an issue. We at LPF want to preserve films as much as how they are intended by the director, but the moment the ‘gay element’ is thrown into the mix, we had to protect ourselves,” Hamid said in the interview.

“Malaysia does not recognise the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) ideology, so we have to be extra cautious in our work. If we let these scenes pass, people will wonder if Malaysia recognises LGBT,” said Hamid in the New Straits Times interview.

Malaysia’s film associations have made clear their position on LGBT matters in the past. In 2010, the Malaysian Producers Association said that gay characters would only be tolerated in film if they either repent or die, reports variety.com.

The LPF’s decision is likely to be taken to appeal on Tuesday. The film will be screened for the Film Appeals Committee, a separate body which too is under wing of the Home Ministry.

Including some 20 members with representatives from the Education, Information and the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism ministries and the police, its decision is final and cannot be further appealed even by a court.

–IANS

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