MALAYSIA — On Monday (13 Mar), Malaysian actress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh made showbiz history at the 95th Academy Awards, having won the highly coveted Best Actress award, becoming the first Malaysian and the first Asian actress to win in this category.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government of Malaysia joins the nation in expressing warm congratulations to Yeoh for this significant achievement.

“In creating history by being not just the first Malaysian but the very first Asian actress to win in this category, we take enormous pride in her achievement, adding to a long list of successes and capping a critically acclaimed acting career spanning decades.”

“Coupled with this latest accomplishment, Michelle’s illustrious and exemplary career in this field will certainly continue to be a source of great inspiration and motivation to our homegrown actors and actresses and provide even greater impetus to the growth of our local industry, ” said Anwar.

However, Zaid Malik, the Director of Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), has criticized Malaysian government leaders for their hypocrisy and insincerity in praising Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar win while simultaneously persecuting local film producers and actors.

Malek stated that it is contradictory for government leaders to celebrate Yeoh’s win while hardworking local film producers and actors are subjected to harassment and criminal investigations over the content of their films.

“Are Anwar Ibrahim, Fahmi Fadzil and other leaders not aware that in Malaysia, Michelle Yeoh’s movie would have led to a criminal investigation for “offending sentiments” or “breach of religious sensitivity” due to the LGBT themes in it?”

Malek said Yeoh’s movie would have led to a criminal investigation for “offending sentiments” or “breach of religious sensitivity” in Malaysia due to the LGBT themes in it.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (14 March), Malek questioned whether they would withdraw or repent their repressive actions against locally produced movies ‘Pulau’ and ‘Mentega Terbang’.

“For the government to now ride on the coattails of Michelle Yeoh’s brilliant Oscar win is distasteful and ironical. Will the government now withdraw or repent their repressive actions against locally produced movies ‘Pulau’ and ‘Mentega Terbang’? ”

He asked whether the government would stop “kowtowing” to the moral policing of zealots and give the film producers artistic freedom to create great films.

Malek also called out the government for excessive censorship, which shackles local filmmakers and producers.

He stated that the supposedly reformist government led by Pakatan Harapan (PH) has shown that they are no different from the previous governments in imposing censorship on the art industry.

“What the government must understand is that art is subjective; whilst it can be for entertainment, it can also be thought-provoking, which would also mean that it may even be deemed offensive by some.”

He added that if the government truly wants to take credit for any accolades obtained by Malaysian artists, then it should protect the products of creative freedom within the country by upholding it as part of a right safeguarded by Article 10(1)(a) of the Malaysian Constitution.

“When that is the measure of censorship, the scales would heavily favour the perceived majority at the expense of the minority, leading to a total erasure of realities that minority groups wish to tell through their chosen artistic medium.”

The first step in the right direction, according to Malek, would be to immediately halt ongoing investigations on all those involved in the ‘Mentega Terbang’ film and to stop using enforcement authorities to harass other local filmmakers and artists for their art in the future.

“Only then can the local film and art scene truly flourish and the government would have a right to share in the glory of the achievements of Malaysian actors or filmmakers.”

Malaysian thriller ‘Pulau’ faces ban in Terengganu over racy scenes, while ‘Mentega Terbang’ draws accusations of religious pluralism

‘Pulau’ is a Malaysian supernatural thriller film directed by Eu Ho.

In January, the official trailer of the movie was bombarded with comments from local social media users, mostly condemning the sexy scenes ― actresses wearing bikinis to a few milliseconds of kissing and love-making scenes.

The movie was banned from screening in Terengganu despite the Malaysian National Film Development Corporation (Finas) permitting a premiere nationwide.

Another movie, ‘Mentega Terbang'(Flying Butter), which has been available online since 2021, has been accused of containing elements of religious pluralism, with objections from Muslims in the country. The police received eight reports in connection with the film.

The case is being investigated under three different sections of the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission(MCMC) has stated that the Viu platform took down the movie on 27 February.

The Islamic development department (JAKIM) also reviewed the content of the film and found it to be against the Islamic creed, according to Religious Affairs Minister Na’im Mokhtar.

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