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Samoa bans Elton John film 'Rocketman' over gay scenes

June 11, 2019

The country's chief censor said the movie "doesn't go well with Christian beliefs here." However, some in Samoa have pointed out what they claim is hypocrisy in cultural attidues towards the LGBT community.

Film still from Rocketman
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Paramount Germany/David Appleby

The South Pacific nation of Samoa said on Tuesday that it was banning the film "Rocketman" about the life of musician Elton John, over its depictions of gay romance. Gay sex can attract jail terms of up to seven years in the small nation of only 196,000 inhabitants.

Samoa's Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu confirmed the ban, saying that the film was "not good for public viewing."

He told the Samoa Observer that the movie "violates laws against same-sex marriage and doesn't go well with cultural and Christian beliefs here."

"It's a good story, in that it's about an individual trying to move on in life," Niuapu said.

"He (Elton John) went through a difficult family life and managed to move on and become very successful. But there are acts that are not good for public viewing and against the law."

Christianity is the official religion of Samoa. However, many were keen to point out that films like last year's "Bohemian Rhapsody" were not banned, and neither were movies depicting acts like murder and premarital sex.

'There are more important issues'

Samoa is also known for its acceptance of fa'afafines, also called the "third sex" locally. Fa'afafines are men who dress as women and usually adopt what are considered feminine mannerisms.

"This censorship is yet another way for moral seekers to bash a few people for no good reason," said Tuisina Ymania Brown, a fa'afafine who is also co-secretary of the Geneva-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Assocation (ILGA).

Brown said that banning "Rocketman" was a slap in the face to a group that was part of Samoa's cultural heritage.

"Now are we saying that art that celebrates fa'afafines are not allowed?" she told Newsline Samoa.

"The power of the church has now reached into censoring the celebration of art. There are more important issues we should focus on, such as gender-based violence (and the) church paying taxes."

"Rocketman" focuses on Elton John's childhood and life of excess in the 1970s and 80s. While the film is not graphic, John rejected a call to tone down the drug use and sexuality, writing in The Observer: "I have not led a PG-13 life."

Both John and the film's star Taron Egerton have condemned the editing of the film in Russia to comply with the country's controversial "gay propaganda" laws. Five minutes of the movie have been cut in Russia, as well as a caption at the end of the film about how the rock star has found love with his husband David Furnish and their two children.

es/rc (AFP, AP)

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