Lebanese Priorities: Censoring The Film Out of Beirut’s Film Festival

L'inconnu du Lac movie poster

L’inconnu du Lac movie poster

When I was walking around the streets of Paris a few months ago, a movie poster at one of their newspaper kiosks caught my attention. It was a colorful painting of two men kissing, with stamps of some impact the movie had at the most recent Cannes Festival. It was called “L’Inconnu du Lac.”

I jokingly said to my friend back then that such a movie would never be released in Lebanon because, you know, there’s someone out there whose main concern is my moral well-being. Who needs art? Who needs some degree of taboo breaking? Who needs any form of mental challenges when you have a bureau whose job is to make sure you don’t get the least mentally stimulated?

A year ago, a friend of mine expressed pride in her cousin, a filmmaker named Farah Chaer, who had produced a short movie called “I Offered You Pleasure,” on the widely known but not-spoken-of topic of “Met’a” marriage among Lebanon’s Shiite sect. An interview conducted with the filmmaker back then asked her about the possibility of having her movie censored. I was sure she’d have trouble.

I was right about both movies.

Our bureau of censorship, which censored a play about censorship about a month ago, decided that both movies couldn’t be part of the Beirut Film Festival, which was opened by Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” yesterday, an excellent movie if I may say so.

Our bureau of censorship decided for every single Lebanese that a movie talking about the “met’a” marriage was not to be seen by the Lebanese people. It decided that such an issue is not to be allowed to discussed on screen. It decided that they want to preserve our well-being by banning us from being exposed to that facet of our society that not all of us are aware of.

Our bureau of censorship decided that a movie about a homosexual relationship which had a torrent of praise bestowed on it in Cannes is not suitable for viewers here. It decided that we all have the mental span of a two year old and as such couldn’t withstand having such forms of art approach us without damaging our souls, our precious whole Lebanese souls which should never be maimed by such indecencies. I wonder, what will happen to the movie “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” which won the top award at Cannes and which also has unsimulated lesbian sex scenes? Will we also not be allowed to watch that movie as well because they don’t see it fit?

As Lebanese, we truly don’t have the extent of freedom that we think we do. We can’t discuss religions freely. We can’t discuss politics freely. We can’t discuss politicians freely. We can’t even criticize our president freely. And lately, there’s been a growing phenomenon of censorship that’s been greatly limiting what we get to be exposed to in order to maintain public order.

As a Lebanese today, with such bans I am stopped from having discussions that would otherwise not be possible in my society. I am stopped from being able to get exposed to the culture that exists beyond this country of mine. I am stopped from being able to enjoy this art that is cinema due to the prongs of a bureau that cannot appreciate the art in it. I am forced to remove the film out of the Beirut Film Festival because there’s really no point in having a movie festival where every single scene is not an expression of freedom, but a mere manifestation of some scissors that decided that scene was allowed.

As a Lebanese today, I am very thankful my country has its priorities in order: my morals, ethics and whatnot top that list. As if we can’t download both movies really soon. Wlek tfeh.

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10 thoughts on “Lebanese Priorities: Censoring The Film Out of Beirut’s Film Festival

  1. Homophobes are among the most tiresome, annoying people. I have never met a homophobe who wasn’t either inexperienced in love or the type which chooses to arbitrarily cite alleged holy documents to justify why gays should be treated worse than others.

    If a government is incapable of treating sexual minorities or topics surrounding them maturely, they are usually incompetent and/or likely to limit rights for more groups as well.

    By the way is it true Lebanon bans the diary of Anne Frank?

    Reply
      • I checked the Dutch news. It seems Hezbollah pressured a (private) school to stop the book from being available because it is Zionist. Makes you wonder how a Jewish family taken away from Amsterdam to be murdered in a camp is “propaganda”. Anyway, sorry for the off-topic.

        On-topic: Censorship never really works. Even if it sounds ethically right or whatever. Because then its supporters will consider themselves martyrs of “freedom of speech”.

        Reply
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  4. this is all a publicity stunt from the organizers of the BFF, horrendous people! wahabtuka l mut3a was shown before in festivals in lebanon, and i’m sure that this time they baited the narrow-minded censorship bureau to dismiss it. it’s easy to do trust me. and i’m sick of people generalizing the topics of films, wahabtuka for example is about an inappropiriate sexual relationship, not about zawaj l mut3a in general. and l’inconnu du lac is not a homosexual film, it’s a film containing homesexual characters, who in this case are preverted and murderous and overall disgusting. as a homosexual i’m kinda glad it was banned, i’d love homophobics to watch better portrayals of gay people before having to see them in this. i’m against censorship, of course, but let’s allow some perspective here and be against cold manipulators who use our outrage. they are the ones disrespecting cinema lovers.

    Reply
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  6. i havent seen this blog entry before!
    i don’t know much about the mut’a marriage and i dont want to judge it because of my lack of knowledge..
    movie looks really nice though :/ anyone has it ?

    Reply

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