CENSORSHIP CHIEF ON THE RATIONALE FOR ‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’ CUTS
Film Censorship Board (LPF) chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid explains the rationale behind the editing of scenes of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and shares the board’s role in safeguarding the public’s interest with FARIDUL ANWAR FARINORDIN and VE
Under Film Censorship Act of 2002, distributors and producers who are unhappy with any decision the board has made can appeal to the Film Appeals Committee. This committee is a separate body from us, comprising a different group of panellists, but is also under the Home Ministry.
Question: The debacle over the “gay moments” seems to be generating a lot of heat from people who passed hasty judgment without knowing what it is all about. What exactly is it? Answer: There are three parts that we feel is inappropriate for Malaysian audiences.
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, and third is a scene that takes place at the end of the movie. (For spoiler reasons, New Sunday
Times is unable to describe this scene).
We understand the original song (from the 1991 animation) did not have such (gay) references.
When film director Bill Condon (director of the live-action version) said that this was the first time Disney introduced a gay character in its film with a “gay moment”, inevitably people became curious.
Our role, then, became more pertinent because all fingers would be pointed to us if viewers get offended.
Some parents had emailed their concerns to me when they heard that Russia planned to revise its viewers rating for the movie, to allow only mature audiences. In Alabama in the United States, the movie has also rubbed people the wrong way, with many denouncing its overt gay agenda.
Malaysia does not recognise the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) ideology, so we have to be extra cautious in our work.
We have our responsibilities to the country, the people and our constitution.
If we let these scenes go, people will wonder if Malaysia recognised LGBT.
Q: What is the duration of the cut?
A: The proposed cut was 4 minutes and 38 seconds. The duration of the song (containing the suggestive lyrics) 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 action. Maybe, if Condon had not mentioned the “gay element”, people wouldn’t be so curious and we could have let it go with a potentially minor cut. And this whole thing would not have become 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. So, what was initially three second, has become more than four minutes. Parents will definitely ask us what is our stand on LGBT after watching the film and how did we allow such a film to be viewed by children without censorship. These are the things that will be difficult for us to answer.
I wanted to take my granddaughter to the movie as she had acted in a school play on the fairytale. She doesn’t know about what has happened, but her mother, who is my daughter, is frustrated. I think the whole family is disappointed. Q: What do you think of the movie?
A: To me, the movie is very entertaining. And if they had removed those bits, it would not have disrupted the movie because it would affect only a small part of the subplot. The tale hinges on the love of a daughter for her father. Belle is a strong role model because she loves to read and even came up with her own invention, just like her inventor father. I found the movie very funny and entertaining.
Q: Disney Malaysia has submitted the film for an appeal. What is the appeals mechanism against the board’s decision?
A: Under Film Censorship Act of 2002, distributors and producers who are unhappy with any decision of the board can appeal to the Film Appeals Committee.
This committee is a separate body from us, comprising a different group of panellists, but is also under the Home Ministry. They comprise about 20 members, with representatives from the Education, Information and the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism ministries and police. They are not full-time members and they meet only when there is a request for an appeal. They are to meet on Tuesday to view the movie.
Q: Can they overturn the
A: They are free to reverse our decisions and yes, they can override our decision. They can overturn a ban or downgrade a rating from 18+ to PG 13, when necessary. They’ve done this a number of times over the years. But their decision is final and it cannot be challenged, even in a court of law. This is also provided for in the Film Censorship Act. Q: Over the years, the board has progressively made changes to its guidelines and become more accommodating to today’s viewers, with movies like
Deadpool and Logan being screened with 18 classification (for those above 18). Can we say the board is more lenient now?
A: Yes, I agree. We are quite flexible, more open and we understand people’s needs when it comes to movies.
LPF’s purpose is not to edit movies. We also try to help the industry as much as we can. We point out all the requirements they have to fulfil to obtain a PG13 ratings so that they can maximise on their viewership. Sometimes, filmmakers and producers engage us at the pre-production stage. For local film-makers, we even open our doors for them to have previews here, where we give our feedback. They will then edit or re-shoot before submitting it for approval. This is our voluntary service and it’s free. They usually come to see us as they do not want their films to be censored later on, which could affect the flow of the story.
Q: What is LPF’s stand with horror movies, which has seen big changes after Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam in 2004?
A: As long as the horror movies don’t use Quranic verses for the wrong reasons, or show dead people returning to life and how the dead can communicate with the living (which is against the tenets of Islam), we can allow them to be released. These guidelines are issued by Jakim (the Islamic Development Department). If none of these elements are present, then we will consider them as fantasy. Don’t worry, filmmakers can make whatever ghost movies they want as long as they follow the conditions stated.
It is also important to note that gory scenes that show too much
Film Censorship Board (LPF) chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid with the list of films banned in Malaysia last year and in 2015.