Lebanese Movie Banned for Explicit Sexual Content

Beirut Hotel Movie Poster

-The instigator-

I haven’t seen Danielle Arbid’s “Beirut Hotel” , but from watching the trailer, it seems to me that the film was banned from Lebanese movie theaters not for “endangering national security”, as was claimed by our ever intelligence-insulting censors, but because it features a double-whammy of a taboo: Explicit sex between a Lebanese woman and a foreign man.

I was toying with the idea that Danielle Arbid could be Lebanon’s Aliaa Mahdy , and apparently Arbid herself is not far from that thought. In her facebook page, there is only one other page that she ‘likes’: That of Aliaa Mahdy.

We all know in advance the result of Arbid’s cleverly placed bait: More Lebanese than ever will now want to watch “Beirut Hotel”. Well played Danielle..

Related: How Censorship Actually Works in Lebanon.
And: Don’t Blame the Sureté Generale for Censorship. 

Does your Work Matter if the Politics are Bad?

Nadine Chahine is one of the world’s foremost Arabic type designers:

I could design all the typefaces that I could imagine, but as long as women are mistreated, rights are abused, and books remain unread, then what is the point? I am finding it harder and harder to dissociate typography from its context

I am deeply unhappy with the situation in Lebanon. For all the typefaces that I can design, it will not lessen the sectarian strife that eats away at the country. It will not take away from the poison in the air. Much as I love my country, I have come to hate its politics. [...] Whatever one does as a job, it is not enough. To be a citizen is to be engaged with the social fabric. There is no escaping politics.

Read her whole piece for a very interesting Lebanese introspection into the value of one’s work and politics.

Steven Spielberg's Name Blacked Out in Lebanese Movie Theaters

This is insane. But thankfully, the Sureté Generale is open to talk about it: First, you have to visit their directorate, fill an application form and if it got approved, they’ll be able to talk about the matter.

Update: L’Orient Le Jour spoke to an SG official who said that they did not ask Cinema City to cover Spielberg’s name.
“Spielberg’s name is on the black list, and we could have legally banned the movie.” he said. “But these days we’re being flexible in implementing the law”

First They Came for the Iranian Movie Makers…

Hanin Ghaddar on the worrying Lebanese indifference to censorship:

the real danger Beirut is facing now is that the majority of its citizens do not seem to care anymore [about censorship]. When authorities curtail freedom and violate human dignity, it calls for resistance. But a heavy air of desperation mixed with fear hangs over Beirut today. If this persists, not only is freedom threatened, so is the very nature of Beirut itself.

Bonus: A reminder of how censorship works in Lebanon: Part 1 , Part 2

A Nuanced Take on Nadine Labaki's Latest Movie

There have been a wave of cheerleading for Nadine Labaki’s whalla2 la Wein movie in the Lebanese blogosphere, so I was longing for an intelligent but critical take on it.

I finally found it in Lama’s excellent post:

Is Nadine Labaki trying to fool us with form without content? An abstraction without depth? Maybe. But then again so is Lebanon, with its fake politics, democracy and freedom, representing nothing but the desires of the external forces that move them. Nadine’s film may be a little shallow, but then again so are our differences.

Check it out..

Mecca Turning Into Vegas?

Jerome Taylor for The Independent:

A growing numbers of [Saudis] have looked on aghast as the nation’s archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Mohamed insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, critics say, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city’s raison d’être.

While the article makes some good points about the importance of preserving a country’s heritage, I have no doubt in my mind that it is –through its choice of language and focus– mean spirited and written with more than a tinge of hate for the Saudi Regime.

I will make no attempts to defend the kingdom (which I find abominable on so many fronts), but it is very clear to me that Mecca’s aggressive expansion is a rational undertaking.

Of the millions and millions of people who visit Mecca yearly, how many are there to see “Saudi archaeological Heritage”? The Saudi government is right to play to the city’s strength, which is the yearly pilgrimage. It has increased the city’s capacity to accommodate a large amount of visitors, and it has used capitalism to make the system most efficient, orderly and comfortable to visitors of all classes.

If the price was destroying a few dilapidated old houses –which are probably architecturally insignificant anyway– then be it.

Girl With A Dragon Tattoo Trailer

Looks very promising. Casting Daniel Craig as Michael Bloomkvist was nothings short of genius. I don’t get those who criticize the Hollywood version and ask us instead to watch the Swedish version. Forgive me if I enjoy watching people talk instead of having to read a translation below.

The "Fresh New Face of Lebanon"

…is filmmaker Nadine Labaki according to the Washington Post‘s entertainment section. Read the interview for insights about how and why she makes her movies..

To understand why Labaki’s triumph in Toronto is a big deal, read this passage:

Festival director Piers Handling noted it was a surprise triumph for a film that was overshadowed by heavily promoted, star-studded Hollywood films. These included Clooney’s two films, The Descendants and The Ides of March.

“We have some very, very high-profile films here at the festival and ones that a lot of people are talking about and I’m sure will go on to awards,” said Handling. “But Nadine’s film obviously connected with the public in a significant way because it was a clear, clear winner.”

I resisted the temptation to write about her latest award winning work because I was waiting to see it first. But if, as she says, her objective is to tell the outside world about Lebanon, then she was largely successful.

Perhaps she should be our minister of tourism..