Film censors deny cutting Jesus scenes

Abdul Halim Abdul HamidPETALING JAYA: The Film Censorship Board has denied cutting scenes involving Jesus Christ from a remake of the classic film Ben-Hur that was released on Thursday.

The board’s chairman, Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, suggested that the producers had submitted a different version for approval.

Asked whether the scenes had been removed, he said “Maybe, but not by us, probably by producers when they sent the film to Malaysia, they already cut the scenes, they know (there’s) some sensitivities”, according to a report by Malay Mail Online.

Abdul Halim said that filmmakers sometimes produced different versions for release in different regions.

He was certain that the board did not remove scenes that included Jesus and could not recall having viewed such scenes. “That one is for sure, I can’t remember about Jesus in that film,” he was quoted as saying.

Film-viewers have protested about what appeared to be censorship. One Facebook user, Jasmine Sia, said she felt cheated. She said the local version did not show Rodrigo Santoro, the actor who played Jesus.

Local film distributor United International Pictures Malaysia has said it was obliged to meet local legal requirements and guidelines and also acknowledged that the local edition was not identical to that shown elsewhere, the report said.

The film is about a Jewish prince falsely accused of treason and made a galley slave. He later becomes a charioteer and on a visit to Jerusalem witnesses Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary and attempts to give him water.

The 1959 film, a Cecil de Mille production with Charlton Heston in the title role, is widely regarded as one of the best films of all time, with its thrilling chariot race part of US pop culture. The film won a record 11 Academy Awards.

The current remake has received poor reviews and is regarded as a box-office failure, having grossed only US$66 million against a production budget of US$100 million.