'Bruce Almighty' finally gets Malaysia's nod

Saturday, 09 August , 2003

Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian government has finally given the nod for cinemas to screen Hollywood comedy "Bruce Almighty" despite a minister's complaints that it was against Islamic beliefs.
The movie was set to debut in cinemas but was postponed after minister for religious affairs, Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin, said the movie, in which star Jim Carrey is given divine powers and challenged by God to do a better job of running the world, was "not appropriate".
"We cannot equate ourself with God almighty even as a joke," he said.
But a home ministry official told Saturday's The Star newspaper that the government had given the go-ahead for the movie to be screened.
He said the decision was made after the movie was viewed and assessed several times by various government officials including those from the Islamic Development Department and the film censorship board.
No other details were available and officials could not be reached for comment.
Malaysia, which has a mainly Muslim population, regularly censors movies and television shows deemed offensive on religious or sexual grounds.



Friday, August 01, 2003

Censors: We did not ban Bruce Almighty

BY WANI MUTHIAH AND ZIEMAN

KUALA LUMPUR: The Film Censorship Board never intended or even recommended for Jim Carrey’s latest flick Bruce Almighty to be banned after viewing it for the first time, said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung.
The current generation of Malaysians should not be underestimated as not being able to tell the difference between comedy and serious issues, he said.
Many of them were well educated and far more exposed, he said.
He said the movie was given the nod several days ago but he stopped it from being screened just yet after Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin had wanted it banned.
“I told the board I wanted to watch the movie first before it was released for public viewing. Since it was a minister who had brought it up, I thought it was only right for the movie to be reassessed to see if it was offensive,” he told reporters after attending Munchy Food Industries Sdn Bhd’s “Give Me A Chance, Give Me A Home” campaign yesterday.
Chor said the board had stipulated that the movie, which was expected to be shown next week, be rated as 18PL.
There are diverse views about the movie, though.
Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said he was more worried about the Malays watching Misteri Nusantara over TV3 on Mondays.
Misteri Nusantara which highlights strange practices, happenings and negative attitudes in the society is being watched by three million people. It has elements of tahyul.
“I don’t think anybody’s faith can be swayed by watching Bruce Almighty,” he said.
Film producer Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman who saw the movie in Jakarta said with the current situation where deviant teachings were rampant, movies like Bruce Almighty should not be screened.
“The issue discussed here is religion. It’s not about Islam, Christianity or any other religion. I think questioning the existence of God whether in jest or otherwise is no laughing matter. It’s rather extreme to ridicule or make a mockery of God,” she said.
Raja Azmi is afraid that viewers, especially the young, would be influenced.
“It is true the movie did not make a mockery of Allah but it was insensitive to make a movie which made fun of God. In fact, I think Bruce Almighty is worse than Daredevil. If the board is serious about instilling religious values, they should just ban it,” said the producer of the recently banned VCD Jembalang Yang Hilang.
For director A. Razak Mohaideen, Bruce Almighty is just another comedy.
“Though there is one part in the film which touched on wahyu (divine revelation), it’s more entertaining than anything else,” he said.
He added that the movie contained many values and there was no blasphemy against Islam, but there were parts that should be censored.
Last Monday, Abdul Hamid called for a ban because the protagonist assumes the power of God.
He said the movie had strayed from Islamic convictions as it equated man with God.


EARLIER STORY

Carrey comedy 'offends' Malaysians

Monday, 28 July, 2003

Jim Carrey plays God for a day in Bruce Almighty
A Malaysian government minister has called for the US comedy Bruce Almighty to be banned, deeming it offensive to Muslims.
Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin, the minister responsible for religious affairs, wants the Jim Carrey film to join the growing list of movies that have fallen foul of the country's censors.
In Bruce Almighty, Carrey is challenged by God to take over the running of the world to see if he can do a better job of it.
Mr Abidin told the Bernama news agency the theme of the film was "not appropriate".
"We cannot equate ourselves with God almighty even as a joke," he said.
The predominantly Muslim country has a track record for banning American films, or censoring scenes on moral or religious grounds.
The award-winning film The Hours saw several scenes cut that depicted kissing between two women to protect the "interests of the country and people from bad influences and negative elements shown in films".
And the big screen adaptation of the comic book hero Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, was also outlawed because of "excessive violence".
The cartoon Prince of Egypt, an animated epic about the life of Moses, was deemed "insensitive for religious reasons", while Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me featured too much sexual innuendo for Malaysian censors.
The spy spoof Zoolander was also banned - for portraying a plot to assassinate a Malaysian prime minister
But the pirate DVD market in Malaysia means people can usually get their hands on copies of Hollywood movies, although the government has taken stringent steps to close down the illegal trade.