LEBANON: Who Are They Punishing?

NICOLE SABA WRITES- Lebanon has once again proven its sound relationship with media censorship.


“The Attack”, an award-winning movie directed by Lebanese director, Ziad Doueiri, was banned from airing in Lebanese cinemas. The Interior Minister of Lebanon, Marwan Charbel, claims that the reason for rejecting the movie is because it was partly filmed in Tel Aviv, using Israeli actors. The Interior Ministry has also refused to include the film in a list of Lebanese films that will be submitted to the Oscars.


The movie depicts the story of an Israeli doctor that discovers his wife had carried out a suicide bombing and destroyed a lot of families. Through his eyes, the greater picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is revealed. In a statement made on his Facebook page, Doueiri said, “to set things straight, I did shoot part of the film in Tel Aviv because this is where part of the story takes place. I used Israeli actors because also these were the artistic choices that I have made. And I have no regrets and no apologies whatsoever”.


Doueiri also claimed that the ban was simply “foolish and unfair,” as many Palestinian films that were shot in Israel have been allowed on the screen. The ban, however, only took place following a letter of protest by the Israel Boycott Office of the Arab League. In fact, even the Interior Minister himself was confused by the decision to revoke the permit for the film, stating, “although they had told me the film is pro-Palestinian.”


The film won three awards at the COLCOA French Film Festival in Hollywood- the Coming Soon Award, the Audience Award, and the Special Critics’ Prize. Banning such a film only portrays a negative image of Lebanon and projects the idea that filmmakers that think outside of the box will be seen as outlaws. The problem, however, stems from censorship laws in Lebanon, in which artistic works will be censored if they, “incited confessional dissent, attacks morals or the authority of the state, or reflectsIsraeli propaganda.”


As far as authorities believe, “The Attack” is a film aimed at promoting pro-Israeli opinions. However, whether the movie is banned or not, it will probably be pirated and sold illegally, which happens very often with movies that are forbidden. Though the hope that the movie portrays will spread to more people, the sad part is that the filmmakers will not be able to receive any revenue from their own country. But who is the ministry truly trying to punish? Banning the public from watching things that might not promote the views of the government will only harm the citizens, not help them.


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