Indonesia's Film Censorship Board (LSF) this week rejected the Hollywood epic Noah, which made its premiere in Sydney on Wednesday. LSF chairman Mukhlis Paeni told news portal Kompas.com that the film's contents contradicted the story of Noah as told in both the Quran and the Bible.
However, it seems that the censorship board was more concerned about the reaction of Muslim viewers than Christian ones: '(Noah) has not had a good response in all Islamic nations. We as a majority (Muslim) nation consider its screening to be fishing for trouble,' Mukhlis said.
The film has already been banned in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and has also upset Christian and Jewish viewers in the US and elsewhere for its emphasis on environmental rather than religious themes. Director Darren Aronofsky has described the film, which is based on the biblical story of Noah's Ark, as the 'least biblical biblical film ever made'. For Muslims, the main point of concern is the depiction of Noah, who is considered a prophet of Islam. Aronofksy's Noah is played by Russell Crowe.
While the depiction of prophets is considered taboo, the use of the name Noah in Indonesia is another matter altogether. Noah is the name used by reformed pop band Peterpan, whose lead singer was jailed over a homemade pornography scandal. It is also the name of the documentary (see trailer above) that tells the story of the band's journey.
The new name has served as a source of redemption for the band, which has managed to re-enter the popular music charts despite the PR catastrophe that saw former fans protesting outside the singer's trial.
Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar has condemned the censorship board's rejection of Noah, calling it a backward step for common sense in Indonesia. 'Nowadays, with the easy access to YouTube, banning a movie is a waste of effort. Secondly, if we are talking about film, we should see it as a work of art. Art is an interpretation of the filmmaker, so it should not be banned,' he told the Jakarta Globe.
Indonesia is a majority-Muslim nation, but it is not an Islamic state. The film's rejection by the censorship board is another example of state acquiescene to the interests of minority extremist groups, something for which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government has long been criticised. For the moderate majority, including fans of Joko Anwar and the former Peterpan, the screening of Noah in Indonesian cinemas is unlikely to have caused waves.