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

New Straits Times - - Front Page -

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

board’s de­ci­sion?

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.

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