Director and screenwriter Amr Salama called for support from the film and journalism communities after censorship committee had rejected his latest script for a film about religious discrimination. Egypt’s Minister of culture then came forward with a promise that the film can be made without changes.
Amr Salama told the Egyptian press that his film script for ‘La Moakhza’ (‘No Offence’), originally named ‘Thanya Eadady’ (‘Prep Two’), was first rejected by the censorship committee because its lead character is Coptic. This happened before the revolution in Egypt. The committee had asked him to make a few changes to the lead character, a young Coptic Christian boy who transfers to a public school and is criticised by his classmates for being from a different social class. The boy decides not to reveal that he is a Copt for fear of being an outcast. However his friends later find out and treat him overly nicely, creating an atmosphere of positive discrimination.
Amr Salama said that he submitted the script again after the January 25 Revolution, but the committee rejected it and requested further edits. The writer said that despite the committee’s claim that they rejected the film for criticising the educational system in Egypt, the real reason is that the lead character is Coptic.
On 6 October 2012 Daily News Egypt reported that the Egyptian minister of culture, Saber Arab, had promised that he can make the film without changing the script. The minister of culture said the script would be approved without having to change the religion of the main character. The minister made this promise in a meeting of the Chamber of Cinema Industry attended by the head of the censorship committee and filmmakers.
Salama appeared on Khairy Ramadan’s MomkinTV show on 3 October 2012 to talk about the movie. The head of the censorship committee, Sayed Khattab, called the programme and stated he found it ‘inhumane’ to show 100 minutes of a young child suffering because of his religion.
Amr Salama first expressed willingness to drop the religious discrimination issue from the movie and limit it to class discrimination. However he later said on his Twitter account that he won’t change the religion of the main character.
“I felt it wouldn’t be good and many lawyers told me this was my legal right so I decided to defend it,” Amr Salama told Daily News Egypt, adding that he is against censorship and that it will eventually come to an end – but the question is when.
“I believe they were against the movie because it admits discrimination against Copts, but this happens every day in reality, I didn’t make it up,” Amr Salama said.
Amr Salama wrote on his Twitter account, “thanks to journalists and artists who supported me against the rejection of my movie by the censorship committee. I hoped Islamists would support me to prove they encourage freedom of expression as they say.”
Daily News, Egypt – 6 October 2012:
Minister of culture intervenes in film censorship dispute
Ahram Online – 5 October 2012:
Egyptian director Salama protests against censorship of new script
Amr Salama’s official home page: