The Malay-language movie, called “Dalam Botol,” or “In a Bottle,” grossed slightly more than 1 million ringgit ($330,000) in its first five days, recouping its production and marketing costs of 970,000 ringgit ($320,000), said Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, who wrote and produced the film.
The movie depicts a Muslim man who has a sex change operation because he believes it will please his male lover, but his effort ends in heartbreak for both of them. Some gay rights advocates have called it an unfairly negative portrayal of gay and transgender people.
Part of the movie’s financial success is likely due to intense advance publicity, including earlier speculation that the government-run film censorship board might ban it.
The box-office results “prove that Malaysian audiences can handle such movies, that they’re more open and not so conservative anymore,” Raja Azmi told The Associated Press. “I hope it’ll inspire more films that are meaningful and linked to the reality of people’s lives.”
Raja Azmi declined to predict how much the movie might ultimately make. According to the government’s film development agency, “Dalam Botol” has the lowest production budget of seven Malaysian movies that opened so far this year and is the fifth to breach the million-ringgit mark.
Raja Azmi said “Dalam Botol” is a neutral work that is not meant to support or slam gays, stressing it is based on the experiences of her friend who had sex change surgery in Thailand. It stars heterosexual actors who are seen bare-chested together on a beach and in bed, but the movie only shows them hugging without any kissing.
Malaysian gay rights activist Pang Khee Teik voiced concerns that the movie might be perceived as an effort to discourage people who have valid reasons to undergo sex change surgeries.
“Many of us Malaysian (gays, lesbians and transgenders) have absolutely no regrets being who we are,” said Pang, co-founder of the Malaysian sexual rights awareness group “Seksualiti Merdeka,” or “Sexuality Independence.”
Pang reiterated his group’s criticism of what it considered “absurd and unrealistic” censorship rules that permit portrayals of homosexuality as long as it is not condoned. Sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison in Malaysia, though prosecutions are rare.
Raja Azmi had to submit her script to censors before filming. She was advised to change the original title – “Anu Dalam Botol,” or “Penis in a Bottle” – and remove a bedroom conversation.
Raja Azmi said her next film will likely be a “fantasy drama” about a young man who has relationships with older partners, both male and female, but whose closest friend is a fish in a bowl that suddenly transforms into a man.
A House committee will review legislation Tuesday that would allow civil unions between any two individuals who cannot legally marry. Partners in a civil union would enjoy many of the rights of married couples when it comes to insurance, health care decisions, inheritance and property ownership.
Civil unions would be restricted to anyone older than 18 who cannot legally marry their partner. That includes same-sex couples and relatives, such as elderly, unmarried siblings who wish to secure legal rights to make medical decisions for each other.
Committees in both the House and Senate have held hearings on legislation to allow gay marriage, but neither chamber has scheduled a vote on the bill.
Chris Bentley, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Wednesday that lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security have concluded that a federal law prohibiting the government from recognizing same sex marriages should be followed despite the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend the constitutionality of the law in court.
The law, the Defense of Marriage Act, defines marriage as being between a man and woman.
USCIS announced earlier this week that it would temporarily stop automatically denying applications for immigration benefits for the gay spouses of U.S. citizens, pending the legal review.
Sheryl Swoopes never hid her disappointment with how her first go-around in the WNBA ended.
The three-time MVP who came out to her fans in 2005 couldn’t hide her excitement and appreciation for the second chance she received when signing with the Tulsa Shock on Wednesday.
“The only reason why I’m doing it is because I still love the game,” Swoopes said during a conference call with reporters. “To be given an opportunity to come back and kind of leave on the right note, or just to be a part of it again, is something I’m excited about.”
Swoopes, who turned 40 on March 25, returns after a two-year hiatus from the league she was a founding member of and once dominated. She helped lead Houston to the league’s first four championships from 1997-2000 and won her last MVP in 2005.
Her last season in the league was in 2008 with Seattle. The Storm released her after she played while recovering from back problems that plagued her the previous year in Houston.
Swoopes continued playing overseas in Greece after that, frustrated that no other WNBA team would give her a chance when she felt she could still play.
Swoopes said she has put any hard feelings toward the league behind her, and she’s physically ready to help a Tulsa team that finished a league-worst 6-28 last season. She averaged 15.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game in her 11 seasons.
“Even at my age, I can honestly say physically my body feels better than it’s probably felt in the last two or three years I played in the WNBA,” Swoopes said. “If I personally felt like I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t be putting myself in this position.
“So there’s not a doubt in my mind that I still can compete on this level.”
Nolan Richardson, Tulsa’s coach and general manager, declined to say how much Swoopes would earn. He said the Shock considered signing Swoopes last season but the roster was already full.
Richardson said assistant coach Teresa Edwards, a former Olympic teammate of Swoopes, approached him about the possibility of signing the former MVP this offseason.
Swoopes decided to make the trip from her home in Houston to Tulsa last month for a workout under Richardson after Edwards called to gauge her interest in making a comeback. The workout included full-court and shooting drills as well as defensive work and Richardson came away impressed.
“Anybody who can work out for 20 minutes for me, that’s a hell of a job,” Richardson said. “That was enough for her to convince me that she can do it and she really wants to.
“I feel that she’s dedicated enough to try to make a comeback. That’s what it’s all about to me, her getting her body ready to make a comeback.”
The Shock made waves last season by signing former Olympic sprinter Marion Jones to a contract and re-signed her this offseason.
Richardson said he didn’t promise Swoopes anything regarding playing time, though he does expect her to serve as a mentor for the Shock’s younger plays. Swoopes was perfectly fine with that.
“For me, honestly, it’s not about individual accomplishments, individual awards,” Swoopes said. “It’s about what I’ve got to do and how I can contribute to the team.”
That said, Swoopes isn’t above proving any doubters wrong that she can still contribute.
“I like to see people doubt me,” she said.
Announcer Michal Cole called fellow commentator Josh Matthews a “faggot” on Twitter. Cole and the WWE have both apologized for the slang and Cole added that it was not “meant as it was taken.”
The WWE and GLAAD recently formed a partnership to battle homophobia and bullying. As of press time the remarks by Cole didn’t appear to have harmed that new relationship.
Iorio says goodbye while cutting Metro ribbon
Outgoing Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio made one of her last public appearances with the office to cut the ribbon for the new Metro Wellness and Community Center in Ybor City on March 28. The beloved two-term leader has been an advocate for LGBT equality since taking office in 2003 and has attended LGBT events throughout her career as mayor. Her appearance at Metro was special for many LGBTs who hate to see her go, but are excited for new mayor Bob Buckhorn to take office in April. Iorio, along with Ybor City development gurus, talked about the positive influence Metro will have on the historic area.
The Flamingo Resort will turn two years old this summer—in August—but changes are already afoot. A walk through the popular St. Petersburg destination shows some of those changes already. New booths adorn the dining area alongside the dance floor and a new menu graces all of the tables. There is also the brand new leather bar, called Code, offering a new hangout for the leather/levi/uniform crowd. Resort manager David Baker said the new bar, which opened in March, has a changing area for those wanting to participate in weekend themes. Popular Cabana Bar bartender Doug Lyons was serving the patrons of Code during a recent visit, which seemed to attract quite the crowd. Future plans include expanding the fenced area around the courtyard and pool, increased security and a larger, more efficient outdoor dining area.
UV Rays to sing at Buckhorn inauguration
Tampa Mayor-Elect Bob Buckhorn is staying true to his commitment to invite LGBTs to participate in city government. The newly elected mayor has invited the UV Rays, a small contingent of Una Voce: The Florida Men’s Chorale, to sing at his Oath of Office ceremony Friday, April 1. The 2 p.m. celebration and swearing in will be held at the Tampa Convention Center. The UV Rays consist of eight members of the popular chorus.
Shannon Fortner is once again at the helm of the festival and Harvey Milk Day will align with ceremonies planned across the nation.
Harvey Milk Day was successful in 2010 and the event is a means to raise awareness about LGBT rights on both state and federal levels. Plans for Sarasota’s festival include incorporating local and national musicians, performance artists and other entertainment.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed May 22 as the first annual Harvey Milk Day in 2010, and communities across the country jumped on board to celebrate. May 22 is Milk’s birthday, and he would have been 81 this year.
Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk introduced and helped pass gay rights measures in the city. He was assassinated in 1978.
Last year’s Sarasota festival saw hundreds of participants driving from throughout the region.
“This is something we need to do every year and it’s important to remember how far we still have to go to be fully accepted in this country,” Tina McCurray of Brandon said at last year’s festival. “I was excited when I learned about this event. It’s fun, but it’s fun with a purpose.”
The festival’s 2011 advisory committee is seeking volunteers, sponsors, and street team members. The next volunteer meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 4, at ALSO Out Youth in Sarasota. For advertising, sponsorship information, or volunteer opportunities, visit HarveyMilkFestival.com.