Backlash in Samoa over ‘hypocritical’ Rocketman ban | World news

The banning of Rocketman, a biographic film about the life of musician Elton John, in Samoa has prompted criticism by human rights activists of “selective morality” in a country where transgender women are widely accepted.

The public found out about the ban through the cancellation of a screening by the only theatre in the country, Apollo Cinemas Samoa, on Monday.

The censorship of the film has since been referred to as “hypocritical” by human rights activists inside Samoa, where fa’afafines are recognised as a third gender.

Fa’afafines – children who are assigned male at birth but then raised by their families as girls – are an accepted demographic in Samoan society and are leaders in private sector, government and in village communities.

Their participation in national affairs is prominent and widely applauded as evident by the fact that the patron of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association is the prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliai Malielegaoi .

President of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association Su’a Alex Su’a said the censorship was “discriminatory after the board banned film on the basis that it does not follow “Christian values”.

“You cannot censor what is open, fa’afafines are a celebrated part of our community. This is a selective morality issue,” said Tuisina Ymania Brown, co-secretary general of the International LGBTI Association.

Toleafoa Chris Solomona, a cultural expert from Savaii said has referred to the banning as “ignorant.”

“Fa’afafines are culturally accepted. Our culture is based on respect and inclusive[ness] – the censorship of this film means that we don’t accept elements of who they are, that’s just ignorant and not based on the reality of how we live.”

Brown agreed and accused the Church of influencing the decision. “The Church is now reaching into controlling peoples perception by banning the celebration of art, Rocketman is essentially a celebration of an artist,” Brown said.

This is not the first time Samoa’s censor board has made international news for banning films depicting homosexuality. In 2009 Samoa banned Milk – the film about the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk – yet in the same week it allowed the screening of Lesbian Vampire Killers.

The board however approved Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, which proved popular among cinema-goers. “Maybe the Censor Board didn’t know that our main man Freddie Mercury was gay, so I guess that’s a good thing,” said Solomona.

Elton John’s music is popular among rural Samoans – with Nikita and Goodbye Englands Rose commonly heard in wooden buses during cross-island journeys.

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