Lebanon slaps ban on three films at international festival
BEIRUT - Lebanon has banned the screening of three films at the International Beirut Film Festival opening on Wednesday, organisers said.
The censored films were Palestinian filmmaker Maha Haj's "Personal Affairs", Syrian brothers Mohamad and Ahmad Malas's "World Cup" and Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's "The Nights of Zayandeh-Rood", festival director Colette Naufal said.
Lebanon's General Security agency asked for a scene to be removed from the Syrian film but the festival organisers refused to comply, she said.
"It's unfortunate that political considerations interfere in arts and culture," Naufal said, adding the cinematic event was striving to be "a platform for freedom of expression".
Tarek Halabi, head of the audiovisual department at General Security, said screening the Palestinian director's film went against a boycott of all Israeli products in Lebanon, "whether artistic or not", as it was produced by an Israeli company and shot in the Jewish state.
"World Cup" had been approved for screening, he added, as long as certain scenes that were "insulting to Lebanese personalities and parties" were removed.
But he said that "The Nights of Zayandeh-Rood" "showed certain elements concerning Iran", whereas "Lebanese laws forbid meddling in Iranian affairs".
Lebanon is considered one of the most open societies in the Middle East, but art is occasionally censored, usually for sexual content or sensitive religious issues.