Kazakhstan has joined a long list of conservative nations in halting distribution of the children’s cartoon feature Light year because of a scene featuring two women kissing.
Culture and Sports Minister Dauren Abayev wrote in a July 14 Facebook post that the decision to withdraw the film, which is produced by Pixar Animation Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, has come to the following “numerous requests from citizens and the media”. whether it would be published.
The film was supposed to start screening this week.
The clamor for Light year to be banned from cinemas in Kazakhstan took a few weeks and follows similar bans applied in countries like China and a host of mainly Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, l Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar.
Conservative and religious activists argued that a scene showing evidence of same-sex relationships went against Kazakh family and moral values.
“We must stop this obscene propaganda. They [Disney] can do whatever they want, but don’t put it in our children’s heads,” filmmaker and actor Nurtas Adambai wrote in an Instagram post in which he tagged President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. eyes on that.”
Adambai’s objections are all the more ironic because he himself has been the subject of criticism from moralists in the past. His film Kelinka Sabina, in which he disguised himself as a woman for intended comedic effect, was written as a polemic against gender inequality. Last year, however, Adambai made a public display of enthusiastically embracing Islam and expressed regret for his work on Kelinka Sabina.
An online petition to ban Light year to be shown in Kazakhstan has so far accumulated 34,000 signatures.
“Since the days of the Kazakh Khanate, our traditions, customs, ways of thinking and social relations have been built on the canons of Islam. This cartoon cannot be shown in our country,” read a statement accompanying the petition.
Despite these protests, Kazakhstan remains the most secular country in Central Asia. The government is generally reluctant to pressure LGBT groups, although it also generally tends to avoid tackling the issue altogether.
In the fall, the release of Eternals, a film adapted from a Marvel Comics adventure, caused some protests from conservative groups over the presence of a gay character. But their complaints were in vain and the film was released.
Since then, however, particularly since political unrest swept the country in early January, the government has sought to project a more engaged public stance – a policy that President Tokayev has described as “the state at the ‘listen”.
While Kazakhstan has more or less formally banned Light year — although Abayev, the minister, carefully avoided stating in his Facebook post that it was a legally binding policy — other countries in the region have taken different paths.
Cinemas in Tajikistan, which are almost all located in the largest cities of the country, showed Light year from July 14.
In Kyrgyzstan, where films are released through Kazakh distributors, Light year is unlikely to appear following the de facto ban in Kazakhstan, a spokesperson for the Bishkek-based cinema chain Cinematica told Eurasianet.
Uzbekistan is not known to have imposed restrictions. A movie theater manager told Eurasianet that market demand for US cartoon screenings is relatively low.
The Light year The ban has dismayed progressive commentators in Kazakhstan who see it as a victory for what they see as regressive conservative forces. Journalist Assem Zhapisheva tweeted a screenshot of a scene from the film showing two women sitting side by side and smiling at each other as one hugs her young son.
“Disgusting. A happy family. How do we show this to our children? They might find out it happens too,” Zhapisheva wrote sarcastically in a slanting commentary on the hardships endured by families and children in Kazakhstan, which suffers from one the highest teenage suicide rates in the world.
Almaty-based LGBT activist Amir Shaikezhanov described the ban as an act of “unwarranted censorship”.
“It’s a disturbing precedent. Today they banned a cartoon because of a particular worldview. Tomorrow they will ban something else without any justification. Are the opinions of other citizens not taken into account? account? Shaikezhanov told Eurasianet, “This is not the kind of ‘listening state’ we should be fighting for.”
Almaz Kumenov is a journalist based in Almaty.
This article was originally published on Eurasianet here.