Silencing art

Beirut International Film Festival not allowed to screen films on LGBT love, Western Sahara conflict.

WASP movie poster. (image via http://philippeaudidor.com)

BEIRUT – One of Lebanon’s top film festivals has failed to receive permission to screen two movies, one on LGBT love and another on the independence movement in Western Sahara.


“The Beirut International Film Festival is sad to announce that it will not be able to screen two films originally planned on the festival’s program, namely WASP by Lebanese-Swiss director Philippe Audi-Dor, and Life is Waiting by Brazilian director Lara Lee,” the organizers said in a statement Wednesday.


Audi-Dor voiced his disappointment over the decision, telling NOW he “would have loved to see the audience’s reaction to the film and discuss its topic with them.”


“Having an opportunity to show WASP in Beirut would have been fantastic.”


The director said that he understood the film’s “subject might hurt certain people,” adding that he was anticipating the potential that “some scenes of the film to maybe be censored because of the film’s delicate subject.”


“Lebanon has always been a place of multiculturalism, debate and a striving art scene. I just hope this beautiful country will continue evolving towards tolerance rather than turn to radicalism,” he added.


“Disguised censorship”


The film festival—which is holding its 15th edition from October 7 to 15—explained that while the films were not formally banned, both had “so far failed to secure screening licenses.”


For his part, Audi-Dor said that that the Beirut International Film Festival “was in contact with the censorship bureau months ago” regarding his film WASP.


Although only Lebanon’s interior minister has the authority to ban movies, authorities in the country have prevented the screening of a number of movies in past years by using the bureaucratic loophole of delaying screening licenses.


The director of the Samir Kassir Eyes (SKEyes) Center for Media and Cultural Freedom told NOW that “the delay is in fact disguised censorship by General Security.”


“The delay in granting the license on time for the festival prevents the public from watching them while General Security maintains plausible deniability,” Ayman Mhanna said in a written statement.


“This year, again, the movies that did not receive the license tackle sexual or political issues. It is hard to believe it is a coincidence.”


Last November, the screening of The Silent Majority, a documentary on Iran’s Green Movement, was blocked due to the film’s failure to receive the proper license in time.


Lebanese authorities prevented the screening of Green Days, another Iranian film covering the Green Movement, in 2011.


The Beirut International Film Festival’s “Forbidden Films Festival” was slated to air the film that summer, but General Security withdrew the organizer’s permit to screen the movie, which included footage of the Iranian protests.


“This is becoming sadly recurrent. Every year, two or three Beirut International Film Festival movies do not get the screening license on time,” Mhanna said. 

WASP movie poster. (image via http://philippeaudidor.com)

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    The Lebanese thought police is protecting us from bad influences. They know what is best for us because God tells them what is good and what is bad. If there is any reform to be made to this holdout of religious barbarism, it is the disbanding of all the State's security, censorship, and thought control agencies. We are not too far off the Lebanese version of the Saudi "Committee for the prevention of vice and the promotion of virtue." Just extend the leash of the Lebanese thought police and we will see its goons walk the streets and tell us what to wear and when to pray.

    October 11, 2015