Censor pulls plug on Elton John's biographical drama

Samoa's Apollo Cinemas has been stopped from screening Elton John's biographical drama "Rocketman."

In a public notice issued by the management of Apollo Cinemas on their Facebook page, it said the movie had to be withdrawn from public screening due to "censoring issues".

The notice did not give details on what the censoring issues were. 

"Unfortunately due to censoring issues we have had to cancel Rocketman," the Facebook post stated. 

The censoring of movies in Samoa is carried out by the Film Censor Board. It was not possible to obtain a comment from the Board.

But Rocketman is not the first movie to have been stopped from public screening in Samoa. Other films include Milk and the Da Vinci Code. 

In the meantime, members of the public have expressed their disappointment with the decision on social media.

One Anric M Sitanilei said the plug has been pulled on the movie because of Elton John's sexuality. 

"Its weird how they censor Rocketman for flashed sequences and implied innuendo but they screened Red Sparrow, a movie that had full frontal nudity, multiple graphic scenes and violence/gore. Rocketman only getting pulled because Elton John's queer," he said in a Facebook comment. 

The M.J.C.A. classification guide lists material which is offensive enough to reject or ban. The list includes explicit sexual activity, demeaning sexual acts, promotion of sex with underage people, and promotion of sexual crimes. 

Explicit sexual violence and promotion of sexual violence are also unacceptable. There are also restrictions on the promotion of, or instruction in drug use or manufacture, and on material that is offensive to religions. These criteria may suggest reasons for the film’s censoring. 

In 2009, the Samoa Censorship Board banned Milk, a film about gay rights. At the time, Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu Faaui declined to comment fully, saying just: “there are rules and guidelines for these things.”

Not long after, he allowed the film "Lesbian Vampire Killers" to screen, stating: “It's about a legend and all the vampires are female. That's why it says lesbians (in the title).”

Rocketman Director Dextor Fletcher (who also made Bohemian Rhapsody) posted on Twitter that the film is a “no-holds barred musical fantasy", and Elton John himself is rejecting the censorship in the “strongest possible terms”.

On Twitter, Mr John said the censorship is a “sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people". And the film’s star, Taron Egerton posted on Instagram that he is “crestfallen” at the censorship.

Social media reactions to the Apollo Cinema announcement suspect the censorship is in reaction to Mr John’s sexuality. 

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