Disney’s Beauty And The Beast is enjoying a fantastic run in its offshore and domestic debut this weekend with full numbers to come later today. As reported last week, the film is not screening in Malaysia after the local censor approved it with what was characterized as “a minor cut involving a gay moment.” Disney then postponed the release, saying the film “has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia.”
In an interview with the New Sunday Times that was posted today, Malaysia censorship board Chairman Abdul Halim says the organization had proposed four minutes and 38 seconds’ worth of cuts. That appears to contradict what he earlier told the AP about a “minor cut.” Today, he says what the board found questionable were “three parts,” the first “during the performance of a song where a male character (LeFou) hugs the other (Gaston) from behind. Secondly is the suggestive song lyrics with sexual innuendos and the third is a scene that takes place at the end of the movie,” Halim told the newspaper.
Sex between men is illegal in Malaysia. On screen, gay characters are allowed to be depicted, but only if they show repentance or are portrayed in a negative light. “Malaysia does not recognize the LGBT ideology,” Halim says in the NST interview. “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 pass, people will wonder if Malaysia recognizes LGBT.”
Disney’s stance not to cut the film comes amid growing determination of multinational groups to resist intolerant rules in markets where they do business, as the FT noted last week.
The submission process in Malaysia is ongoing and the Film Appeals Committee, a separate body to the censorship board, is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to screen the film. It has the power to reverse the board’s decision.
Halim suggests today that the film might have passed with “a potentially minor cut.” But, he says, “people became curious” following the situation in Russia where the film was given a 16+ rating and “we had to protect ourselves.” That 16+ rating in Russia is similar to those certifications given to Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean movies in that market and does not ban the film for under-16s. It is the equivalent to a PG-13 in the U.S.
Halim allowed there has been upset locally that the film hasn’t been released. He would not comment on whether the board is revising the 2010 guidelines under which it currently operates. Those guidelines, he said, cover “ideology and politics; religion, national security and peace; as well as social norms.”