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Brokeback for Malaysia

Brokeback for Malaysia

A film distributor in mostly Muslim Malaysia--where movies on sensitive issues are often banned--will steer clear of Brokeback Mountain but try to show Munich. United International Pictures, which has distribution rights for both movies, said Thursday it will apply to Malaysia's state-run Film Censorship board for approval of Steven Spielberg's Munich, which depicts the aftermath of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Because of Malaysia's Muslim majority population, the government is cautious about Israeli and Jewish topics. It initially banned Schindler's List, Spielberg's Oscar-winning epic on the World War II holocaust.

UIP, however, will not even apply for approval of Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee's award-winning gay cowboy romance, said UIP publicity manager Dawn Liew. "We believe there is a market for Munich here, but Brokeback Mountain is definitely not going to make it here because its themes wouldn't be right for our local audiences," Liew told the Associated Press. Brokeback Mountain, about two cowboys who discover romantic feelings for each other, has swept critics awards in the United States over the past month and is widely expected to be a leading contender at this year's Academy Awards.

Malaysian censors banned Schindler's List in 1993, calling it Zionist propaganda. They later lifted the ban following public appeals but said scenes with nudity and violence must be cut. The film was never screened in Malaysia because Spielberg insisted it be shown in its entirety. Other high-profile movies that have been banned include The Prince of Egypt, an animated epic on Moses, which was deemed "insensitive for religious reasons," and Ben Stiller's spy spoof Zoolander, which portrays a plot to assassinate a Malaysian prime minister.

Munich has drawn attention for Spielberg's re-creation of Israel's campaign to hunt down members of a Palestinian group that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics; some Jews have criticized Munich for what they call its sympathetic treatment of Arab extremists. UIP wants to start showing Munich in Malaysia on April 13 and hopes it won't be banned, because "it has a balanced point of view, with the message that violence is wrong," Liew said. Senior officials at the censorship board were not immediately available for comment.

Last year the government allowed Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ to be shown, but Muslims--who make up some 60% of Malaysia's 26 million people--were barred from screenings. (Malaysia's population also includes Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu minorities.) (Sean Yoong, AP)

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