Amid the global media’s frenzied buildup to the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey” this weekend, a handful of countries are saying no to Hollywood’s hottest blockbuster and on Wednesday, Cambodian censors declared the movie too sexy for its citizens.
The movie is a highly anticipated adaptation of author E.L. James’ erotic novel by the same name, a romance story dressed up in S&M gear that sold more than 100 million copies and brought bondage to the masses.
Slated to open in Phnom Penh cinemas this Valentine’s Day weekend, the Ministry of Culture’s film censorship committee ruled this week that Cambodian audiences weren’t ready for “Fifty Shades of Grey” and banned its release after local distributor Westec Media screened it for them last week.
“This movie is entirely related to sexual matters that are too extreme for Khmer society, who we have judged would not accept it,” said Sin Chan Saya, who heads the committee.
“It features insane romance, a lot of sex, the use of violence while having sex,” he added. “That is why we have decided not to allow it to be shown and Cambodia is not the only country that has stopped it being shown.”
In Southeast Asia, the film has so far been banned only in Malaysia and Indonesia, largely Muslim countries where authorities ruled that the sexual and masochistic content strays from religious laws.
Critics, however, have warned fans seduced by the book’s explicit content that the movie’s sex scenes are so toned down in comparison that they will likely be left unfulfilled. In France, 12-year-olds will be allowed to watch the film.
Cambodia’s film censorship committee acknowledged that while it would not be shown on the silver screen, “Fifty Shades of Grey” could be downloaded from the Internet and would likely be viewed on pirated DVDs.
“If they want to see it, they have that right to in the privacy of their own home,” Mr. Chan Saya said, adding that if people download it illegally and distribute it, they would be breaking the law.
“In today’s technological age, censorship is difficult and is now kind of like giving information to society, like parents, guardians and teachers, to tell them what is suitable,” he added.
Westec CEO Michael Chai said while he had hoped the censors might pass the film with cuts or restricted screening times, he was not particularly surprised by their decision.
“Generally, the censorship board has been very liberal here and there are fewer and fewer restrictions,” he said, pointing to the fact that no movies were banned all last year.
“They are usually very open-minded. But in this case, the film is entirely sexual in nature and they felt they had to uphold what is officially allowed.”