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Malaysia Clears ‘Power Rangers’ for Theatrical Release, Despite Gay Character

Variety logo Variety 3/22/2017 Patrick Frater

Malaysian censors have approved “Power Rangers” for release in the country, despite the film boasting a character who questions her sexuality. The film will be released from Thursday, uncut, with a “P13” certificate.

The greenlight comes only a day after Malaysia’s Film Appeals Committee overturned a ruling last week by the censorship board, known as the LPF, that “Beauty and the Beast” should be cut in part because of what director Bill Condon has called the film’s “gay moment.” Disney refused to make the cuts and chose not to release the film as scheduled last week until the appeal was heard.

Industry and media in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation had speculated that Lionsgate’s “Power Rangers” would run into similar problems since it involves a character who has been characterized as the big screen’s first gay superhero. That speculation increased as major Malaysian cinema chains removed the film from their ticket sales websites Tuesday.

“We received notification [of the greenlight] from the authorities today,” Maria Tan, marketing manager at the film’s Malaysian distributor, TGV Pictures, told Variety on Wednesday. “And we have begun ticket sales.”

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It is not clear if the inconsistency in the two LPF decisions is a reaction to the wave of controversy that greeted the censorship board’s demand for changes to “Beauty.” Over the weekend, Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, chairman of the LFP, seemed unmoved by the criticism.

He said he had sought 4 minutes and 38 seconds of cuts to “Beauty” and that director Bill Condon had made the problem worse by highlighting the gay moment. “Malaysia does not recognize the LGBT ideology, so we have to be extra cautious in our work. If we let these scenes pass, people will wonder if Malaysia recognizes LGBT,” he said in an interview with the New Straits Times newspaper.

The LPF was backed up in its anti-gay approach by the government. “Any films on LGBT, the government will not allow because the elements portrayed in the movie could influence us,” said Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed via official news agency Bernama.

The Film Appeals Committee, which is a separate body from the LPF but is still answerable to the Home Ministry, approved “Beauty” on Tuesday with a P13 certificate. Malaysian media reported Wednesday that the decision had only narrowly gone in favor of “Beauty,” with the panel voting 9-8. Disney said that it would release the film next week (March 30).

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