Censorship | Film | Malaysia | News

Malaysia May Screen First Gay-Themed Film

Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, the director of one of Malaysia's first gay and transgender-themed films, awaits the verdict from Malaysian government censors on "Dalam Botol", about how one partner's sex change affects a gay relationship, the AP reports

Botol  "Raja Azmi submitted a preliminary script last year to the Home Ministry's Film Censorship Board, which verbally approved it after advising her not to shoot scenes of men kissing or being in bed together. Censors also told her to change the original title: 'Anu Dalam Botol,' or 'Penis in a Bottle.' The film's two leads had trouble 'getting loose and comfortable in the first few days,' but they adjusted to their roles before filming ended earlier this year, Raja Azmi said. 'We still shot scenes of skin-to-skin intimacy, with them hugging passionately,' she said. 'Without that, we wouldn't be able to show how much the characters really love each other.' Censors are unlikely to permit such scenes for Malaysian audiences, who are accustomed to bland, generic comedies and romances. Censorship board officials declined to comment until Raja Azmi submits the film to them."

Considering what Malaysian Film Producers' Association president Ahmad Puad Onah recently said about the new censorship guidelines, and what Raja Azmi said about it, the film could screen: "We are now allowed to show these scenes. As long as we portray good triumphing over evil and there is a lesson learnt in the film, such as from a gay (character) who turns into a (straight) man."

Said Raja Azmi of the film: "She stressed the movie was 'a nonfiction tragedy about my friend.'"

Watch the trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Everything about the way this film has been worded, and presented bothers the piss out of me. "As long as good triumphs over evil", what version of evil? Sensorship and puritanical supression evil? or "We only want to display politically aproved propaganda" evil? Even the explanation at the end of the post the director gives alleging that "happily ever after"; is the gay (thing) turning into a (straight) man." As though gay men aren't. I'd not watch this just based on those asusmptions alone.

    Posted by: g_whiz | Apr 8, 2010 8:59:39 AM

  2. American audiences also demand bland, generic comedies and romances and don't want to see male-male intimacy, so nothing unusual there.

    Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2010 10:18:17 AM

  3. It's a start; that anything like this should come from my country makes me very proud of the people involved.

    Given Malaysia's general uninspiring record on the treatment of the LGBT community, it's amazing to see that In the Bottle is even being considered by the censors for release.

    Posted by: ST | Apr 8, 2010 11:26:35 AM

  4. ST, really. You consider this a triumph when the director just told you that the movie had to end with the gay person turning straight and before he said that other acceptable outcome would be if the gay character dies a violent or lonely death?

    I'm sorry but I don't really consider that a step forward. It actually seems like a step back to go from not portraying gays at all to portraying them as sick, unhappy people who either change their orientation or die an agonizing and lonely death.

    But whatever, I guess we all have different standards. I will say that even in THIS country I'm amazed at what some gay people, here in the 21st century, consider positive gay representation in film; like Chuck and Larry and Mambo Italiano.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Apr 8, 2010 11:38:10 AM

  5. Tampazeke, not every movie has to have stellar, positive representation of their characters; likewise, not all LGBT movies has to portray positive representation of their characters too (how BORING would that be?)

    Like ST, I'm from Malaysia too. To understand how monumental that the Censorship Board is even considering reviewing this movie for release speaks volume, given Malaysia's highly conservative and homophobic society. The movie may not be much, but at least it's the step in the right direction. As far as LGBT movies go, we are eons away from our neighbours Thailand, the Philippines and even Singapore.

    Personally, I think the director's 'views' were meant to placate the powers-that-be and meant to make the movie more 'palatable' to the censor's scissors.


    Posted by: Sav | Apr 8, 2010 1:28:09 PM

  6. The director's script has been re-drafted a number of times in order to pass censorship. In the West, that kind of capitulation to an oppressive authority would rightly be regarded as the wrong kind of compromise. But in a country like Malaysia, where the mere topic is socially taboo outside of big cities (and not so different from the rural US in that regard), a film which brings it to the fore even making into the public domain is something to take note of.

    The director, a woman, never said any such thing about death being an acceptable outcome - my English may be second-hand, but the only references to death are made by the president of the board of censors about race car drivers in another film. The director of this film is outspokenly pro-gay, and she simply wants to tell the story of a gay relationship that broke down because of a person's decision to have a sex change against his partner's wishes. I'm not worried that the director is about to do us a disservice by removing explicit scenes, or even by having a tragic ending, because her story is based on one she witnessed in real life. Brokeback hardly manages an upbeat, positive ending, but it has a clear message about love, something that I see in the trailer for this film.

    In any case, it's a moot point; the fact is that none of us knows exactly how this film ends, but there is a chance, whether it ends tragically or otherwise, that it might be intended to reach everyday individuals with the right kind of message - the trailer certainly gives me a reasonable impression (though I would concede that this must be lost to people who don't speak Bahasa). The question of whether or not this film is allowed to exist in Malaysia at all is far more important than its content when taken in the context of where it is being made, by whom, and who it is being aimed at.

    Yes, of course we have different standards; I come from a country where being me means official, sanctioned persecution, even if I were lucky enough to enjoy a liberal social circle. All I wished to convey was the fact that I am proud of the director's attempts to produce this film in the face of certain censure, and that I continue to have hope; I don't think it's naïve of me to feel this way. Incidentally, I thought C&L and Mambo were terrible - nice to know that we have something in common.

    Posted by: ST | Apr 8, 2010 1:46:32 PM

  7. "audiences, who are accustomed to bland, generic comedies and romances."

    sounds familiar. . .

    Posted by: FrancoisTrueFaux | Apr 9, 2010 4:55:17 AM

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