LPF: Any movie screening needs approval, whether public or private

LPF-chairman-Abdul-Halim-Abdul-HamidGEORGE TOWN: Mature audiences or not, it is illegal to screen any movie without having it first reviewed by the Film Censorship Board (LPF).

The board said third parties such as cinemas, theatres or individuals cannot decide for themselves to screen any movie to the public, regardless of the contents of the movie.

LPF chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid said only the board had complete discretion to approve a movie for public screening or not and that it was a punishable offence for any theatre, cinema or individual to show movies to the public without the board’s prior approval.

“Even though the organiser may claim that the screening is meant for invited/selected guests or in this case, for ‘mature audiences only’, the film requires the board’s approval prior to its screening.

“There is no exception for the organisers to use their own discretion.

“Individual discretion or preference (by third parties) has nothing to do with the decision of the board. The censorship process in LPF is done carefully and thoroughly guided by the Film Censorship Guidelines, issued by the home ministry,” Halim told FMT.

LPF was responding to an attempted free screening of a controversial Vietnamese movie at the Performing Arts Centre of Penang (Penangpac) earlier this month.

Penangpac had scheduled to screen “Hot Boy Noi Loan va Cau Chuyen ve Thang Cuoi” or “Lost in Paradise”, which revolves around the relationship between two gay men, on July 11.

It was part of the theatre’s “World’s Best Movies” campaign and a poster of the free screening was uploaded on Facebook. This created a lot of negative buzz on social media with many calling for the movie not to be screened.

The theatre then cancelled the screening following “unforeseen circumstances” and replaced it with a screening of “West Side Story”, a 1960s Hollywood musical. However, that too was cancelled after a few Muslim groups came to the theatre to protest the originally-scheduled movie.

Meanwhile, Halim said no film can be circulated, exhibited, displayed, manufactured, produced, sold or hired in Malaysia without LPF’s approval in accordance with the Film Censorship Act 2002.

“We would like to emphasise that any theatre, cinema or person screening any film without LPF’s approval, would be committing an offence under Section 6 of the Act.

“Such an offence carries a fine of up to RM30,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both,” he said.

Halim said the film review process by the board seriously takes into account national policies and also protects the interests of the public.

“As for the organiser of the movie screening in Penangpac, our enforcement officers have met and advised them accordingly. However, officials from the home ministry will continue to monitor the situation.”

In March this year, activist Lena Hendry was found guilty of screening the documentary “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” without the approval of the LPF and was fined RM10,000.