The Malaysian Film Censorship Board was rapped for cutting a scene in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. AP PIC

I laud Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz for sticking his neck out to blast the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, saying enough is enough over the cut in Disney’s movie Beauty and the Beast .

The censorship board explained that it was only a minor cut to take out the “gay moment”, which presumably is unsuitable for local viewing as homosexuality is forbidden in Malaysia.

But many people are disgusted with the holier-than-thou attitude of the censorship board, as can be seen from the comments on social media.

The local film and music industry, as well as the writers and novelists in Malaysia, are so circumscribed by taboos.

The realities of the modern world include drug addiction, crimes among schoolchildren, casual sex, unwanted pregnancies, rich businessmen and politicians keeping mistresses, and homosexuality. All of these happen in many countries.

Screenwriters and film producers in the West, who make box-office hits with interesting entertainment from these social ills, have often been recognised nationally and across the world for highlighting the problems that are real in every society, but which many in authority have chosen to ignore because they are too difficult to resolve.

Oscars and other awards are often given to film producers and actors who make an impact on society. Some films are deliberately provocative on sex, crimes or political scandals to drive home the message, leaving the viewing public with something to think about when they go back to work the next day.

Our censorship should understand that a movie that arouses our erotic senses or touches on political or religious sensitivities is not necessarily offensive if it has a meaningful storyline to entertain the public and, at the same time, inform them of the issues.

Cutting the bits that are deemed offensive, like a Malay actress kissing onscreen or eloping with a boy from a different race, can be damaging to the storyline if these parts are critical to the plot.

In the Hollywood movie The Da Vinci Code, the storyline is about the Vatican, the nerve centre of the Catholic Church, trying to keep secret the real story about the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

Despite protests from Catholic leaders, the film was allowed.

It was a box-office success
with gripping entertainment of cloak-and-dagger heroes and villains.

As many on social media have said, we are able to think for ourselves. There is no need for the censorship board to guide our thinking. We, too, dislike unnecessary sex or senseless violence on the screen, but if it is relevant to the storyline, and not crude, there is no reason to apply the scissors. We also know how to differentiate between fact and fiction. When we see Batman or Superman flying to save a girl perched on the rooftop of a multistorey building, we know he was not created by God.

It is just a film character created for entertainment, but done in such a way that children and adults can enjoy themselves at the cinema, without losing faith in our religion. Religious leaders do not have to get worked up over supernatural characters in movies or on television.

We have to keep a close eye on the censorship board, lest one day it decides that all cinemas should be closed down. That will be the end of our artistic talent and the entertainment industry.

TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD
KASSIM, Kuala Lumpur

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