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Samoa bans Da Vinci Code

By Martin Johnston

Samoa has banned The Da Vinci Code after church leaders who saw the movie complained to the Pacific Island nation's censors.

But the film's distributor, Sony Pictures, last night predicted Samoans would soon be able to watch it on pirated DVDs.

Leaders of the Catholic and Congregational churches in Samoa watched the film on Friday at a special screening at the country's sole movie theatre, Magik Cinemas.

Catholic Archbishop Alapati Mataeliga said the movie would affect those of weak faith, causing confusion among Samoan Christians.

"If only the movie was based on the true Gospel, then I think it would not be so bad," the Samoa Observer reported him as saying.

Many Christians worldwide have called for a ban on the movie, which depicts Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and establishing a bloodline the church then covered up.

Sony Pictures New Zealand managing director Andrew Cornwell said last night that Samoa was the only country he was aware of that had banned the film. Magik Cinemas had appealed against the decision.

He said Sony had supported Samoa's sole cinema, by supplying new film prints, rather than ones already used in New Zealand, and by providing them close to the date of their release in the United States.

"One of the reasons we support them is that they have a piracy problem," Mr Cornwell said. "You might be able to ban it from showing at the cinema. I think it's going to be out on pirate DVD there in a couple of weeks. I don't think anything is going to be done to prevent that.

"That's the bit that really sticks in our craw; we know it's going to be widely distributed in Samoa, but only by criminals."

The Rev Peniamina Vai, of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in Otara, Auckland, said he welcomed the ban in Samoa, because it was a religious country.

He agreed the movie could rock those whose faith was weak and did not want his parishioners to see it.

Mr Vai said he had read the Dan Brown book on which the movie was based, but had not decided whether to watch the film.

Catholic Communications director Lyndsay Freer said the church had not called for the film to be banned, although a couple of Vatican officials, expressing personal opinions, had urged a boycott by Catholics.

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