The Pacific nation of Samoa has banned the Elton John biopic Rocketman because of its depictions of homosexuality.
About 97% of people in Samoa identify as Christian, and the society is generally considered conservative and traditional. Under Samoa’s 2013 Crimes Act, sodomy is deemed an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison, even if both parties consent.
Samoa’s principal censor, Leiataua Niuapu Faaui, told the Samoa Observer on Tuesday that the homosexual activity depicted on screen violated laws and did not sit well with the country’s cultural and Christian beliefs.
The censor did concede that “it’s a good story, in that it’s about an individual trying to move on in life”.
Apollo Cinemas Samoa wrote on Facebook it had to cancel Rocketman “due to censoring issues”.
The movie, starring Taron Egerton, examines John’s sexuality and relationship with his former manager John Reid.
A Russian distributor censored scenes from Rocketman that featured gay sex and drug use, and John wrote in a joint statement with the film-makers that it was 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”.
Russian gay rights activists and prominent figures denounced the move. Although homosexuality is not criminalised in Russia, animosity towards gay people remains strong.
Samoa, which is home to about 200,000 people, also banned the 2008 movie Milk, in which Sean Penn portrayed the American gay activist Harvey Milk.
Rocketman has taken about $101m (£80m) at cinemas around the world since opening 10 days ago.