Samoa bans gay rights movie 'Milk'

By Cherelle Jackson

APIA - In yet another controversial move by the Samoa Censor Board, the movie Milk based on the life of gay activist Harvey Milk has been banned from Samoa.

The movie was rejected by the Censorship Board two weeks ago after it was presented by one of the local movie stores for the board's approval and rating.

Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu Faaui confirmed the board had rejected an application for the movie to be distributed in movie stores in Samoa.

Asked for the reasons behind their rejection of the movie, Leiataua declined to comment saying he needed the approval of the Censorship Board chairman to comment.

"There are rules and guidelines for these things," Leiataua said.

Eteuati Junior Esau, General Manager of Movies4U, the largest chain of movie stores in the country, expressed his disappointment at the decision.

"I really just want a reason why, because my customers are demanding this movie," Esau said.

An average of 20 people, request the movie Milk on a daily basis from Movies4U stores around Upolu.

Esau says he does not understand why the movie is banned, as it has had great reviews, has won numerous awards and is based on a true story.

"I was expecting some good sales from that movie," Esau said.

He is not the only one disappointed.

Ken Moala, a well known Human Rights Activist in Samoa, says the banning of the movie is uncalled for.

"I do not think it should be banned. It is basically a documentary about the human endeavour to conquer something that people tend to discriminate against," Moala said.

"It's really harmless, I don't know how it would affect Samoan lifestyle. It is totally different and not applicable to here, it is pretty tame really."

Moala, who is well known for his work with minority groups in the Pacific, says the film is about human rights and the struggle to attain everyone's inalienable rights to leadership and lifestyle preferences.

"It's is about vulnerable groups, how they are often marginalised, and they have every right to be part of society, especially in becoming public servants or figure heads in society.

"Quite frankly I do not see how it is relevant to the Samoa situation. As a film I think it is quite good, and pretty harmless.

"I don't know the reasons why they would do that, are they making a statement against the gay organisations? Or what?"

Moala says sometimes the Censorship Board does censor the wrong movies.

"Some of the movies that have been here are violent and horrific. When it comes to documentaries like this, I think it is all about the human story as opposed to the slaughter that goes on in some of these movies," Moala said.

Principle Censor, Leiataua says he is willing to comment on the matter pending approval from his superior, but the decision to ban Milk is final in Samoa.

Some movie stores still feature the Milk poster in their windows but do not offer it to the public.

- NZ Herald

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