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July 15, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Pasifika Queer in Review

Samoa Censors Elton John Biopic

Earlier this year, Apia’s Apollo Cinemas was prohibited from screening the Elton John biopic Rocketman. The film was dubbed “inappropriate for public viewing” by Samoa’s principal censor. 

 

While the decision caused outrage across the globe, President of the Samoan Fa’afafine Association, lawyer Alex Su’a, was less surprised. 

 

In an interview with Sapeer Mayron, Su’a says, “We have been subjected to a lot of labelling, victimising, discrimination, and we’re a lot more resilient now.” 

 

“Ban the movie? We’re like, OK, ban the movie, we’ll go and download it free off the internet. That’s how resilient we are,” says Su’a.

 

He concluded that while the censorship indicates a setback in their work, it does allow for a spotlight to be shone on the systemic queerphobia in Samoa, and the work of the country’s Rainbow advocates. 

 

Cook Islands Follow Suit

In the footsteps of Samoa came the Kuki Airani (Cook Islands) decision to ban films with “homosexual content”. 

 

Chief censor Dennis Tangirere, supported the ban on “religious grounds” as well as those arguments applied in Samoa.

 

The list of films banned on these grounds included Rocketman, which premiered there in June, and screened openly in Empire Cinema for a week before it was censored. 

 

Tangirere said that the manager of the cinema, Pa Napa, was simply “late on the [censorship] list.” However, there is speculation the delay was to test the waters of public opinion. 

 

A local Rainbow/Akava’ine association spokesperson encouraged people to watch the film despite the censorship. 

 

Shaneel Lal: Queer, Fijian, and Killing It

On a more positive note, 19-year-old Fijian-born Youth MP Shaneel Lal was interviewed as part of the Open Government Partnership held in Canada recently. 

 

Lal uses the #BreakTheRoles campaign on Instagram to promote diversity in leadership roles and challenge traditional social roles. Lal spoke to the Partnership about elements of his overlapping identities, as well as the change he wants to bring in the future. 

 

“As a coloured person, a member of the rainbow community, and a migrant, these three things work very much together and also against each other.” 

 

Lal is on the Ministry of Education’s Ministerial Youth Advisory Board, and has a particular passion for the decolonisation of education. 

 

“Me being openly who I am [is] a way of saying that, actually, you  can have this background. You can be yourself, you can accept yourself, and you can actually get into many places,” said Lal. 

 

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