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Samoa bans hit Elton John biopic over gay sex scenes

Samoa's Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu confirmed the ban to local media this week, saying the film contained too many scenes that were "not good for public viewing".

Elton John. Picture: @eltonofficial/Twitter

APIA - Samoa has banned the blockbuster Elton John biopic Rocketman from cinemas over depictions of gay sex, which remains illegal in the Pacific island nation.

Samoa's Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu confirmed the ban to local media this week, saying the film contained too many scenes that were "not good for public viewing".

Niuapu told the Samoa Observer that the movie "violates laws against same-sex marriage and doesn't go well with cultural and Christian beliefs here".

"It's a good story, in that it's about an individual trying to move on in life," he said.

"He (Elton John) went through a difficult family life and managed to move on and become very successful. But there are acts that are not good for public viewing and against the law."

Samoa is a devoutly Christian nation and gay sex can attract jail terms of up to seven years, according to London-based lobby group Human Dignity Trust, although it notes authorities do not actively enforce the laws.

The country is also well known for its acceptance of fa'afafines -- men who dress as women and adopt female mannerisms -- known locally as the third sex.

"This censorship is yet another way for moral seekers to bash a few people for no good reason," Tuisina Ymania Brown, a Samoan fa'afafine who is co-secretary of Geneva-based rights group ILGA.

She said fa'afafines were part of Samoa's cultural fabric and the Rocketman ban was a contradiction of the tolerance they enjoyed.

"Now are we saying that art that celebrates fa'afafines are not allowed?" she told Newsline Samoa.

"The power of the church has now reached into censoring the celebration of art. There are more important issues we should focus on, such as gender-based violence (and the) church paying taxes."

Samoa also banned the 2009 movie Milk about pioneering US gay activist Harvey Milk, but last year's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was screened without attracting any complaints.

In Russia, the gay sex scenes were cut from Rocketman, prompting condemnation from Elton John and the stars of the movie.

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