Chief censor Dennis Tangirere said last week that he expected to bar public distribution of the Elton John movie; Internal Affairs secretary Anne Herman is expected to confirm an official position as early as today.
The attempt to censor the critically-acclaimed movie is causing international concern and Herman is coming under pressure to reverse the Chief Censor’s position.
Yesterday, the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network denounced Samoa and the Cook Islands’ censorship of the movie because of its depiction of homosexual relations.
Executive director Isikeli Vulavou described the ban as another discriminatory act against the LGBTQI+ people of the Pacific: “a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the LGBTQI+ communities.”
It is expected that Cook Islands residents will be allowed to download the movie or bring it into the country on hard drives or memory sticks for personal viewing.
But the movie is unlikely to be allowed in DVD stores, and it will not screen again in the Empire Cinema in Avarua.
It is understood that the opportunity to screen the movie has now run, and even if Herman were to perform an extraordinary about-turn and approve the movie’s distribution, the cinema is now scheduled to begin screening its next movie.
Tomorrow, the children’s musical Aladdin, and the action movies Godzilla, X Men Dark Phoenix and MIB International will fill the cinema’s schedule.
Tangirere told Cook Islands News this week that the movie had been “condemned” – that is, banned from public exhibition at the movies and in DVD stores. But there was nothing to stop people bringing their own legal copies into the country.
The New York Times has described Rocketman as a musical fantasy that traces Elton John’s transformation from the piano prodigy Reginald Dwight, born in a hamlet outside London, to the over-the-top showman played by Taron Egerton.
The film, directed by Dexter Fletcher and co-produced by Elton John’s husband David Furnish, is “unflinching” about John’s rise, his childhood trauma and subsequent addictions.
“I’ve never been a half-measured person, and you can see that got me into a lot of trouble” John said.
The depiction of his life as a gay man had – to his dismay – led to the film’s censorship in several countries. The Cook Islands, Egypt, Samoa and now Russia have censored it.
John said, “I didn’t want to leave any of the sex scenes out, because that’s very important — that’s why we went for a Rated film. It’s not ‘Bohemian Rhapsody. My life is not a PG life.”
To the LGBTQI+ communities, “Rocketman is a very inspiring movie,” said Isikeli Vulavou.
“Elton John also went through a difficult family life and managed to move on and become very successful,” he said.
“The film is something the LGBTQI+ people, especially, can really take ownership of – but here we have two censorship boards actively participating in the erasure of the lived realities and experiences of LGBTQI people by banning powerful, inspiring films such as this.”
Vulavou called for consistency by the censors, pointing out that there were violent and rated movies still being played in the cinemas, even as Rocketman was pulled.
The Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network argues for decriminalising homosexuality in the seven Pacific Island countries, including Samoa and Cook Islands, that still criminalise it.