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Philippines gives "Da Vinci Code" film adult rating

Written by: Staff

MANILA, May 16 (Reuters) The Philippine censor gave ''The Da Vinci Code'' film an ''adults only'' certificate today, banning under-18s in the Catholic country from seeing the controversial religious thriller.

Consoliza Laguardia told reporters the film, based on the best-selling novel of the same title, required ''mature discernment'' because of a plot that involves Jesus Christ having a child with Mary Magdalene.

Laguardia also cited scenes of ''self-flagellation involving clerical assassination, violent images and a fleeting sexual ritual'', but she said the film did not directly attack the Catholic Church and did not merit an X-rating or any cuts.

SM cinemas, the largest chain of movie theatres in the Philippines, does not show R-18 films.

But many Filipinos of all ages are likely to catch the movie, starring Tom Hanks, on pirated DVDs.

''What's the point of making it R-18? There's always the book,'' said Marion Panlasigui, a 17-year-old student.

Manila's hawkers have already started flogging a documentary on ''The Da Vinci Code'' as the real movie, ahead of the world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 17 and its launch in the Philippines on May 18.

The film, distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment, is expected to be shown around the world with a PG-13 rating, meaning that teenagers can watch it and children under 13 have to be accompanied by an adult.

Last week, the Philippines' powerful Catholic bishops gave priests guidelines on how to refute the book's plot and reminded parishioners that the novel was a work of fiction. But they stopped short of calling for the film to be banned.

More than 80 per cent of the country's 85 million people are Catholic and adherence to the faith is widely displayed.

Every year during Easter week, at least half a dozen Filipinos volunteer to be crucified in a re-enactment of the death of Christ.

The gory ritual, accompanied by other penitents flogging their own backs raw with bamboo whips, is frowned upon by the church but promoted by tour operators and local business people.

Some younger Filipinos were angry at what they saw as faith intruding on entertainment.

''Something such as religion should not be a standard for whether we should let movies be played,'' said Peterson Poon, 16. ''It annoys me that I have to buy a DVD.'' REUTERS DKS RN1435

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