In its 16th year, the Beirut International Festival announced on 5 October 2016 that three films would no longer be part of the schedule due to Lebanese authorities not granting screening permits; however later in the week one movie, ‘The Nights of Zayandeh-Rood’ directed by Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, acquired the required permit and made it back on the schedule.
According to festival director Colette Naufal, “the films were banned because some of their scenes were deemed ‘offensive’ by the General Security Agency”, reported SKeyes Media on 6 October 2016.
‘World Cup’, directed by Syrian brothers Mohammed and Ahmad Malas, was reportedly banned because it featured scenes that contained “insults to Lebanese personalities and parties”. Authorities asked festival officials to remove the scenes, but they refused, thus leaving the film without a permit, reported Gulf News on 6 October 2016.
‘Personal Affairs’, directed by Palestinian filmmaker Maha Haj and filmed in Israel with an Israeli production company, was banned due to Lebanon’s laws boycotting Israeli products, including artistic works, according to Major Tarek Halabi, the head of the General Security Agency’s Audiovisual Broadcasting Department.
Organisers for the festival stated that they “regret that political considerations interfere with culture and art, and tackle cultural and artistic activities from such a narrow point of view”, and that the banning of films in the country “tarnishes Lebanon’s image of being the country of freedom of expression in the region”.
‘The Nights of Zayandeh-Rood’ was originally banned, according to Halabi, because it “showed certain elements concerning Iran” and “Lebanese laws forbid meddling in Iranian affairs”, reported The Times of Israel on 6 October 2016.
Films banned in the past
This is not the first time that films have been banned at the Beirut International Film Festival or in the country.
In 2015, British LGBT film ‘Wasp’ was banned from the film festival due to its subject matter of a gay couple holidaying in France and meeting a long-lost friend. Also, a documentary about Sahrawi people – the people who live in Western Sahara – called ‘Life is Waiting’, was banned from the festival for geopolitical reasons, according to the filmmakers, who also stated that Lebanon benefits from Moroccan support and humanitarian aid.
In 2013, the festival’s censorship committee denied permission to screen Lebanese short film ‘Wahabtouka al Moutaa’ (I Offered You Pleasure) due to its subject matter of a devout Muslim woman who resorts to the controversial practice of “moutaa”, also known as “temporary marriage” or “marriage for pleasure”. French film ‘Stranger by the Lake’ was also banned in 2013 for subject matter as the film tells the story of a same-sex relationship between two young men.
Also in 2013, Lebanese authorities banned award-winning film ‘The Attack’ from cinemas in the country because it was partly shot in Israel using Israeli actors.
In 2011, ‘Green Days’, a documentary about the 2009 protests during the Iranian presidential election, was also banned from the Beirut International Film Festival after Lebanese intelligence agencies and an Iranian ambassador “pressured film festival organizers not to screen it”, reported Freedom House on 20 June 2011.
» Gulf News – 6 October 2016:
Lebanon censors films at international festival
» Prensa Latina – 6 October 2016:
Lebanese capital in cinema festival shadowed by censorship
» The Times of Israel – 6 October 2016:
Lebanon bans Palestinian film, citing Israel boycott
» SKeyes Media – 6 October 2016:
Censorship committee bans films from Beirut International Film Festival
» Beirut International Film Festival – 5 October 2016:
No screening permit granted for some films
» Freedom House – 20 June 2011:
“Green Days” banned from Beirut International Film Festival
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