Malaysia under fire over cuts to gay scenes in Elton John’s ‘Rocketman’

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has censored gay sex scenes in Rocketman, the movie musical based on the life of British singer Elton John, sparking condemnation from art critics on Thursday.

Film buffs also took to social media to post criticism of the cuts, which included scenes depicting gay sex and men kissing, after Rocketman was released in Malaysian cinemas last week.

“We do not allow any scenes that promote LGBTQ in films that are for public viewing,“ Safaruddin Mohammad Ali, head of the Film Censorship Board’s, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“Although it is about the real life of Elton John, it is not for him to allow the public to see whatever he does or whatever activities he indulges in that is not our culture.”

Safaruddin and the film’s local distributor, United International Pictures, refused to disclose how many scenes were cut, and the latter said it “respects” the government’s rules.

Rocketman, starring actor Taron Egerton, tracks John’s first steps in the music business, from his piano playing as a child to his explosion onto the US scene and its drug and alcohol-fuelled party world.

It has received a rating restricting it to viewers who are 18 years old and above.

TV personality and art critic Sharaad Kuttan, who has watched Rocketman was heavily critical of the censorship board’s move.

“Governments today cannot control the representation of the LGBTQ community and individuals – they are fighting a losing battle,“ he said, referring to the popularity of streaming TV platforms such as Netflix.

In June, 72-year-old Elton John condemned Russia for censoring gay sex and drug scenes in Rocketman, while Samoa banned the film over its depiction of homosexuality.

Film censors have in the past blocked movies deemed religiously insensitive while the 2017 release of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was held up over a “gay moment” in the film. — Reuters