"Dalam Botol" (In a Bottle): 1st made-in-Malaysia gay film

Malaysia...truly Asia?! Can't believe "Dalam Botol" or "In a Bottle" really--and finally--makes it to the wide screen. Read about it sometime last month (the news republished in Facebook).

Just wonder whether Singapore ever produced a gay movie. So I googled "Singapore gay movie" & I came across this YouTube clip, "Solos - Singapore's first full-length gay movie". It is...interesting. Argh. Less light side beckoning? Haha...

MALAYSIA'S first gay-themed movie could hit cinemas within months, its producer said, after government censors eased restrictions that have stifled the film industry here for decades.

Although the Malay-language movie won't have explicit sex or even kissing, its screening would be a huge step forward for freedom of popular media in this Muslim-majority country that many fear is coming under the influence of Islamic conservatism.

'Dalam Botol,' or 'In A Bottle,' centers on a man whose relationship with his male partner crumbles after he undergoes sex change surgery, said Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, who produced the film and wrote the screenplay based on the experiences of her friend. 'We are taking a risk,' Ms Raja Azmi, a longtime movie producer, said in an interview this week. 'I'm very nervous. We still don't know if the censors will allow our movie to be shown in the end.'

Ms Raja Azmi submitted a preliminary script last year to the Home Ministry's Film Censorship Board, which verbally approved it after advising her not to shoot scenes of men kissing or being in bed together. Censors also told her to change the original title: 'Anu Dalam Botol,' or 'Penis in a Bottle.' The film's two leads had trouble 'getting loose and comfortable in the first few days,' but they adjusted to their roles before filming ended earlier this year, Ms Raja Azmi said.

'We still shot scenes of skin-to-skin intimacy, with them hugging passionately,' she said. 'Without that, we wouldn't be able to show how much the characters really love each other.'

Censors are unlikely to permit such scenes for Malaysian audiences, who are accustomed to bland, generic comedies and romances. Censorship board officials declined to comment until Ms Raja Azmi submits the film to them. But Ms Raja Azmi - who spent about 700,000 ringgit (S$304,000) to make the film - said she hopes to show an uncut version at film festivals abroad.

From Straits Times, "1st made-in-M'sia gay film".

THE movie is only 70% complete, yet "... Dalam Botol", producer Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman's latest film, is already courting controversy with its daring plot line which touches on homosexuality and transsexualism. TheSun managed to get exclusive access to scenes from the movie which is slated for a July opening, barring any intervention from the censors.

The RM700,000 budget "... Dalam Botol" is actor Khir Rahman's directorial debut, and stars Arja Lee, Wan Raja and Diana Danielle. Arja and Ghaus play gay lovers Rubidin and Ghaus, respectively, whose relationship is tested when the former decides to undergo a sex-change operation. But Ghaus is unable to accept "Ruby" and walks out of the relationship.

Sometime later, Ruby decides that a woman's life is not for him, and decides to stop taking the female hormone injections. Now back to the masculine Rubidin - minus a few parts - he falls in love with Dina (Diana Danielle) and they decide to marry. But can she ever accept his past? Can Rubidin make her happy? Though ... Dalam Botol's plotline may seem far fetched, producer Raja Azmi swears it is based on a friend's experience. "I am not making a judgmental movie. I am just telling a story based on one of my friend’ true experience. In his case, he regrets going for a sex change operation. "I have no right to judge anyone. I am no angel. I have my sins too," she told theSun in an exclusive interview.

Raja Azmi bristles when asked if "... Dalam Botol" is an anti-gay movie. "It is just a simple love story between a man and a man, and a woman and a man," she said.

Considering the subject matter, is she worried about the Censorship Board's reception to the film? After all, she had already changed the title of the film slightly from "Anu Dalam Botol" on the advice of the board. Surprisingly, Raja Azmi believes she will not face any problems in this department, despite butting heads with the board over the many cuts to "Black Widow Wajah Ayu", her first film back in 1994.

Though there was an earlier ruling banning movies showing men wearing women's clothes, Raja Azmi says the Censorship Board has recently come up with more relax rules and regulations. "They are more matured and brave now. They understand the filmmakers predicament." That said, does the 51-year-old go looking for controversy? After all, her books-turned-movies such as "Cinta 200 Ela" and "Black Widow Wajah Ayu" have touched on sexual matters. But she claims she does not look for controversy. "Controversy comes looking for me. I cannot understand why can’t we discuss these topics in our films. We can discuss about God and devils. But we cannot discuss gays and transsexualism. "We should not sweep issues under the carpet any more. We must learn to face them. We must to learn to discuss them rationally."

From Facebook, "Sex in a bottle (From sun2surf.com)". (17/03/10)

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