Malaysia gay-themed film gets applause at 1st show

Published: November 11, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Muslim-majority Malaysia’s first gay romance movie opens with playful scenes of a bare-chested male couple massaging each other on a beach at night — but their euphoria soon evaporates in a story that seeks to placate both conservative government censors and contemporary audiences hungry for edgy material.

"Dalam Botol," or "In A Bottle," is a Malay-language film about a man who gets a sex change operation because he thought it would satisfy his male lover, but ends up regretting it. The film earned applause from movie bloggers invited to its first public screening Wednesday, three months before its scheduled nationwide release.

"Even five years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to make it," Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, the film’s producer and writer, said after the screening. "I’m glad that at this time, at this moment, we can show it."

Malaysia’s government-run cinema censorship board has long frowned on sexually provocative films. As recently as last year, the board banned British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s "Bruno," accusing it of promoting homosexuality with its portrayal of a flamboyant fashion journalist.

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