Cinema audiences in Malaysia could soon see the country’s first gay-themed film after censorship guidelines were eased.
Dalam Botol, or In A Bottle, is about a man who undergoes gender reassignment to the detriment of his relationship with his male partner.
It will not show kissing or nudity, which are banned. However, producer Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman said she hoped to show scenes of the male leads cuddling at international film festivals.
Those scenes are unlikely to pass censors in Malaysia and are expected to be cut for versions shown there.
Previously, gay characters in films were completely banned and Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest film Bruno fell foul of censors last year.
But last month, the Malaysian Film Producers’ Association announced changes which will allow gay characters to be shown as long as filmmakers show that homosexuality is wrong and has negative consequences.
Dalam Botol ends in tragedy for the characters, which Raja Azmi said were based on people she knew.
She told Associated Press: “We are taking a risk. I’m very nervous. We still don’t know if the censors will allow our movie to be shown in the end.”
Malaysia has strict rules on public morality. Homosexuality is not specified as a crime, but Section 377 of the penal code prohibits sodomy, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The same law is still in force in other former British colonies, such as Singapore, although the New Delhi High Court in India recently struck it down.
Malaysia also has a prohibition on “gross indecency with another male person,” with up to two years in prison for those found guilty.