Samoa censors crack down on ‘Code’

Church elders said the film would undermine faith

AUCKLAND — Censors in the small Pacific island of Samoa have banned “The Da Vinci Code” after church leaders complained it would confuse the local Christians.

Church leaders in the devout country of around 180,000 met last week and stopped the scheduled unspooling at the three-screen Majik Cinemas in Apia.

“If only the movie was based on the true Gospel,” Catholic archbishop Alapati Mataeliga lamented in the Samoa Observer newspaper. “Then it would not be so bad.”

Church elders said the film would undermine faith in a country that had received a lot of benefits from religion.

Magik Cinemas owner Rudolf Keil complained he was out-of-pocket due to the ban, said to be the first in Samoa since “Zabriskie Point,” released in the U.S. in 1970.

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” created church concerns about the level of blood and violence, but it was passed uncut limited to viewers over 18, Keil said.

“Da Vinci Code” is distributed through a handful of Pacific islands through Sony Pictures in New Zealand.

General manager Andrew Cornwell said it was already playing in Fiji and Tonga, which both have a strong Christian tradition.

Cornwell predicted that due to the ban, pirated DVD copies of the movie would be circulating within two weeks.

“The Da Vinci Code” opened in New Zealand and made $1.05 million in its first weekend — the biggest opening for Sony in New Zealand.

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