UPDATE (8:48 PM) – I have just been informed by United International Pictures Malaysia that Abominable will no longer be released in the country. UIP Malaysia, the distributor of the film, has also just removed the film’s trailer from their YouTube channel. It’s still unclear as to why exactly the film isn’t going to be released. LPF previously claimed that the film can be released as long as one cut is made.
There could be numerous reasons for this decision, but two comes to my mind. One, LPF eventually decided that the film is too controversial to be released altogether. Two, Dreamworks/Pearl Studio decided that they’d rather not release the film at all if it was going to be censored (similar to what Disney did with Beauty and the Beast).
ORIGINAL STORY (10:26 AM):
DreamWorks (US) – Pearl Studio (China)’s animated film Abominable was released in the US last month to highly positive reviews. The film follows a Chinese teenager named Yi who discovers a Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in Shanghai. She and her friends Jin and Peng then go on an epic journey to reunite the magical creature with his family. The film is set to be released in Malaysia on 7 November, however, our film censor board (Lembaga Penapis Film) has called for some cuts first mainly involving a scene depicting a map that shows China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea (Nine-Dash Line).
“The animated film titled ‘Abominable’ has been given approval for screening in Malaysia under the condition that the controversial map is removed from the film.”
The controversial map scene is seen as problematic by many Southeast Asian countries. Abominable has been completely banned in Vietnam. The Philippines has some of the most progressive laws in the region when it comes to the arts and freedom of expression so while the film wasn’t censored nor banned there, the country’s foreign minister Teodoro Locsin, did advise citizens to boycott it.
The South China Sea territorial conflict is a huge problem that has been going on for years. Four countries — Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Vietnam — and Taiwan have been heavily against China’s claims in the South China Sea. It’s a highly complex political issue, but in simple terms: China is basically increasing claims in the South China Sea without permission from neighbouring countries. They have even built artificial islands in disputed waters and have continued to place their military and industrial outposts there. In other words, the already powerful China is slowly and sneakily becoming even more powerful. Even the US and the United Nations have started to intervene.
My quick take: Even given the circumstances, I’m still firmly against censorship of the arts whatsoever. I love how it’s done in the Philippines. The film isn’t banned nor censored, but citizens are advised against watching it. The choice is still in the hands of the citizens.
Abominable (with its cuts) was initially supposed to be released in Malaysia on 7 November.