2 filmmakers charged

THE director and producer of a banned Malaysian film that explores the afterlife were charged Wednesday with offending the religious feelings of others in a rare criminal prosecution of filmmakers, slammed by critics as an attack on freedom of expression.

Mohamad Khairianwar Jailani, the director and co-scriptwriter of "Mentega Terbang," and producer Tan Meng Kheng pleaded not guilty to having a "deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of others" through the independent, low-budget film. If found guilty, they could face up to a year in jail, a fine or both.

Defense lawyer N. Surendran said the two believe the charge is "unreasonable and unconstitutional" because it violates their right to freedom of expression. "As far as we are concerned, these are groundless charges and we will challenge those charges in court," he said.

The film, which debuted at a regional film festival in 2021, revolves around a young Muslim girl who explores other religions to figure out where her ailing mother would go when she dies. Scenes that angered Muslims included ones showing the girl desiring to eat pork, which is forbidden in Islam, and pretending to drink holy water, and her father supporting her wish to leave Islam. It also sparked death threats against Khairianwar. / AP


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