Five banned biblical movies in Malaysia
Writer: Casey Lee
"Ben-Hur" makes it to cinemas over the rest.
"Ben Hur" tells the vengeance story of a Jew who was betrayed by his adopted Roman brother. While enslaved on a Roman galley, he meets Jesus and would continue to do so in numerous encounters throughout his plot for revenge and Jesus' path to his own crucifixion.
The 1959 version of the film starring Charlton Heston as the title character won a record of 11 Academy Awards, so how will this 2016 remake starring Jack Huston as the titular character along with Morgan Freeman and Toby Kebbell fare?
Unlike most biblical stories, "Ben Hur" is strictly not a bible story, but one that happens to be set in the same time when Christ still walked the earth.
Biblical stories, on the other hand, have not been so blessed in this country which forbids any visual depictions of any prophet from the Quran, which share many figures from the Bible.
Since an apparent 'muslim-friendly' version of "Ben-Hur" has been approved by our local censorship board with a P13 classification rating and is set for a 15 September release in Malaysia, these are five biblical movies which weren't as lucky and never saw the light of the cinema screen in the country.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
One of the most epic of biblical movies made during the studio era stars Charlton Heston once again as Moses, as he leads the Jews out from the deserts of Egypt. Notable for many of its grand scale scenes, including the parting of the Red Sea and the unveiling of the Ten Commandments, movies depicting the prophet Moses have been banned in Malaysia as early as the 1950s. This will not be the first time that movies about Moses would continue to be made and banned in Malaysia.
Prince of Egypt (1998)
If a physical depiction of the prophet Moses is a no-no, Malaysia is about to learn that it extends to drawings as well. The animated "Prince of Egypt" which begins from Moses' birth to becoming the brother to the pharaoh till his ordination as a prophet to liberate the Jews, was also given the ban hammer from being shown in Malaysian cinemas. However, the animation was soon given a seal of approval to be released in VCD format as a home release, but required special labels to indicate that it was only for Christian and private viewers.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson's authentic depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion was a brutal watch for any Christian who wanted to see how Christ had suffered for their sins. For Christians in Malaysia, they would never be able to witness it at all when it was banned from entry, but after some protest and consultation with church leaders, "The Passion of the Christ" was allowed to be screened in certain venues and only for Christian viewers. A home release was also allowed with the same conditions as "Prince of Egypt".
Another famous bible story told is that of Noah, who was instructed by God to build an ark and assemble creatures of the Earth before the coming of a great flood. While Darren Aronofsky's alternate telling of how the story went down generated its own controversy, it was not for Malaysians to judge because if you asked if they had seen it in cinemas, the answer would be 'No-ah,'.
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
In the same year as though biblical stories were making a comeback, Ridley Scott rode the wave with his retelling of the Moses' story with "Exodus: Gods and Kings". This is the third strike against another movie depicting the prophet Moses, even though played by Christian Bale, and given how it was reviewed as a poor attempt of remaking "Gladiator" with extravagant CGI and needless battle scenes, it not passing our censors may have been a blessing in disguise.
Cinema Online, 11 September 2016