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Recently, Mentega Terbang has been making waves in the news. 

Not for breaking any records upon its release in 2021 though. Instead, it’s because some have (including the governmental media bodies) deemed it to be controversial.

But the question is, is Mentega Terbang really violating any film guidelines in Malaysia?

Before jumping into that, we have to look into the local film landscape and understand how movies get released on the big screen.

A brief introduction to the film industry

Three of the major players involved in the media and film landscape in Malaysia

The filmmaking industry in Malaysia is quite complicated, as there are many different governmental bodies involved.

Some of the major players include the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF), and the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS)

A lot of times, people tend to confuse the roles of these organisations, so let us break it down for you:

MCMCRegulate the communications and multimedia industry based on the powers provided for in the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act (1998) and the Communications and Multimedia Act (1998).
LPFTo implement policies for film censorship and censoring films all across Malaysia. The first Act adopted was the Cinematograph Films Act 1952 (Amendment 1966), followed by the Film Censorship Act 2002 (Act 620) which is in force until today.
FINASTo encourage, preserve, and facilitate the progress of the film industry in Malaysia. Generally provides assistance to entrepreneurs and industry participants in terms of encouragement, training, financial assistance, production facilities, or advisory services.

Now that this is clarified, the bigger question is…

How do films or TV shows get aired in Malaysia?

From Vulcan Post’s research, we found that there are two main policies used to assess this—the Film Censorship Act 2002 (FCA) and the Guidelines on Film Censorship.

The FCA states that all films, motion pictures, and moving images that will be publicly screened need prior vetting. This also includes trailers and advertisements.

And according to FREEDOM Film Network, possessing, distributing, or exhibiting any film without the proper licence is a criminal offence. 

If caught, you could get charged with a fine of RM5,000 to RM30,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years. 

The organisation that is in charge of approving, censoring, and classifying films is LPF, which is under the Home Ministry as it deals with internal affairs.

So just to reiterate, FINAS doesn’t really have a say in it, as many Malaysians have been misled to believe.

Now, back to the topic

In order to get a media material approved, production houses need to apply for a film certification from LPF. The application process can be quite complicated, but here’s a simple graph to help make it easier:

A simple breakdown of the process to apply for film certification from LPF

There’s a long list of factors that are considered during the appraisal, as stated in the Guidelines on Film Censorship. 

But essentially it focuses on four main areas—security and public order, religion, socio-culture, and decorum and morality.

It’s a lot to unpack there, so the guideline also includes a list of the kinds of films that generally don’t get approved:

1) Films that have a theme, storyline, or plot contrary to socio-culture, noble values, are seditious, anti-religious, insults the beliefs or customs of a particular community or group, have elements that contradict the policies of the government, excessive violence, and cruelty.
2) Films that have an illogical theme, storyline, or plot that may lead the citizens astray and cause foreign countries to have a poor perception of the socio- culture and noble values of the local population.
3) Films must respect Malaysia as a sovereign nation. Films that don’t but instead condemn Malaysia, smear the good name and image of the country and its people, contravene decorum and Rukun Negara (even if it is produced outside the country) are not approved.

That said, there are exceptions…

This “pre-approval” process is not necessary for other media, such as print, visual, performing arts, and anything on the internet.

This means that your TikTok clips, Instagram photos, YouTube videos, and independent films don’t have to be vetted by LPF before publication.


Well, the organisation itself told The Star that it only screens films and related publicity material that will be published conventionally, which does not include online materials.

In fact, none of the organisations mentioned above have jurisdiction over what does or does not get to be published online. Not MCMC, not LPF, and not FINAS.

So why did the recent controversy surrounding Mentega Terbang, an acclaimed independent film screened solely online, happen? 

And more importantly, how does MCMC play a role in it?

Let’s rewind to the start

Many of the film’s important scenes are set at the dining table / Image Credit: Mentega Terbang

Mentega Terbang is a slice-of-life film about 15-year-old Aisyah and her exploration of faith and the afterlife following her mother’s declining health.

It touches on various differences and similarities that the major religions in Malaysia share. Not a topic most local films would go near, since religion itself is quite a sensitive matter. 

The film had been screening underground for the past two years (released in 2021), despite being showcased at the Indonesian Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival in 2021 and the 2022 Aceh Film Festival.

That is, until Asian streaming platform Viu decided to onboard the film on January 19, 2023.

The film’s co-producer, Tan Meng Kheng, said in a statement that the initial audience reception was overwhelmingly positive. But that all changed when MCMC stepped in and requested Viu to take the film down.

Speaking to Free Malaysia Today, the commission admitted that although they had no authority as the film did not fall under its purview, it contacted Viu on the matter. 

The reason? “The MCMC will always cooperate and provide technical support to the state religious department to conduct investigations under the Shariah Criminal Offences Act,” MCMC said.

So the movie was effectively taken down on February 27, 2023. 

But the drama is just beginning 

Paint and acid thrown on Mentega Terbang director and screenwriter’s cars by assailants who also left death threats against them and their families / Image Credit: Hadi Azmi

Certain scenes of the movie started circulating on social media, which caused some public outrage. Some netizens deemed it offensive to Islam and questioned how the film was allowed for public viewing.

The police were also brought into the picture. After receiving eight reports, a case was lodged against the producer. The charges are as follows:

  • Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony
  • Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for causing public fear, or distress public tranquillity 
  • Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for improper use of network facilities

More recently though, two cars belonging to the film’s director and screenwriter were reportedly splashed with paint and acid on March 16, 2023. 

The perpetrators also left death threats on the vandalised cars, stating “You and your family must die”, “Mentega Terbang don’t challenge Islam” and “Remember (this) Mentega Terbang family”.

Having watched the movie, it’s understandable how it might rub off the wrong way. But committing personal crimes like these isn’t the civilised way to express your dissatisfaction and call for change.

Not the first controversial Malaysian film

Movie posters of the films mentioned below / Image Credit: Mentega Terbang (left), Astro Shaw (middle), IMDB (right)

“Dukun”, which chronicles the sensationalised true story of Datuk Mazlan Idris’ murder at the hands of Mona Fandey, failed to receive approval for its release in 2007. 

Some concerns surrounding the movie at the time included its depiction of violence, superstition, and infringement upon the sensitivities of certain parties.

It was reported that no official statement was given to explain the issue. However, the movie was allowed to premiere 10 years later. 

Similarly, “….Dalam Botol” tells the fictional story of a Malay man who underwent surgery to become a transgender woman. The plot also had homosexual elements. 

That itself was a cause for concern for many as the homosexual themes were (and still remain) a taboo in Malaysia, including its film industry.

But it managed to get the green light from LPF after making some amendments, and was released in 2011. 

Both of these are box office movies. The Vulcan Post team tried to find independent films with the same scale of controversy, but came up empty-handed as they’re quite obscure. 

Had we found other similar case studies though, it would’ve been interesting to see how the controversies were handled, and what became of the independent films in the aftermath.

All that said, any constructive criticism should be welcomed, if the goal is to improve something. But are the death threats and property damage toward Mentega Terbang’s team truly constructive?

The authorities also should not jump the gun to censor materials at the first sight of public unrest over something. The proper SOPs should still be practised, and action must be taken through the right channels. Would such swift action have been taken if the movie hadn’t gone viral?

  • Learn more about Mentega Terbang here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Creidt: Mentega Terbang

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)