The Elton John biopic "Rocketman" will not be screening in the Pacific nation of Samoa due to the film's inclusion of a sex scene between two men, according to The Guardian.
"About 97% of people in Samoa identify as Christian, and the society is generally considered conservative and traditional," reports the outlet. "Under Samoa’s 2013 Crimes Act, sodomy is deemed an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison, even if both parties consent."
In a statement made to the Samoa Observer, the nation's principle censor, Leiataua Niuapu Faaui, said that "Rocketman" violated the Christian cultural beliefs of the nation and the country's laws while admitting the film is "a good story, in that it’s about an individual trying to move on in life."
"He (Elton John) went through a difficult family life and managed to move on and become very successful," said the censor. "But there are acts that are not good for public viewing and against the law."
Surprisingly, Samoa did not ban 2018's "Bohemian Rhapsody" from theaters, which most likely stemmed from its PG-13 rating. While Somoa has strict laws regarding homosexuality, the outlet DW notes that the country does accept a local "third sex" of men who dress up like women while adopting feminine mannerisms called fa'afafines.
"This censorship is yet another way for moral seekers to bash a few people for no good reason," Tuisina Ymania Brown, co-secretary of the Geneva-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Assocation (ILGA), told Newsline Samoa.
"Now are we saying that art that celebrates fa'afafines are not allowed?" Brown continued. "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's decision to ban "Rocketman" comes shortly after distributors in Russia heavily edited the film to exclude the same-sex scene that totaled five minutes of footage. The Russian release of "Rocketman" also deleted the end caption that says Elton John has been raising children with his husband and replaced it with one that said John established an AIDS foundation and works with his musical partner.
Elton John and the makers of "Rocketman" condemned the cuts in a joint statement, accusing the Russian distributors of pandering to local laws and denying the audience their right to see the film as intended.
We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor Rocketman for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today," said the statement. "That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended 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. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world."
"Rocketman" has now grossed $100 million in the global box-office, far behind the impressive $903 million that "Bohemian Rhapsody" enjoyed.