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CUT! Is censorship hurting UAE cinema?

CUT! Is censorship hurting UAE cinema?

The UAE’s somewhat stringent censorship laws are getting in the way of the country’s growing developing cinema industry thinks Kipp.

January 2, 2012 4:28 by

Last month, Kipp made it to quite a few movies at the annual Dubai International Film Festival. I remember on my way out of the cinema, I was stopped by one of the volunteers from DIFF who had a few questions for me concerning how the selection and organization of this year’s festival was. “Establishing Dubai as a cultural center for all kinds of cinema” was a reoccurring theme of her questions, and considering the DIFF is in its 8th year and the UAE just screened its first feature film a year ago, I suppose it is a legitimate concern.

There can be no argument that the government is anything but incredibly encouraging when it comes to developing the local cinema industry—two words say it all: Image Nation. And when it comes to the UAE being used for a filming location, the government for the most part of it, has been extremely welcoming (as a particular shot of Sheikh Mohamed and Tom Cruise featuring a falcon will prove).

But if there is one aspect of the UAE that isn’t conducive to becoming the next hub for cinema it would have to be the stringent censor board. Take for instance the film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which has been very well received by the critics, which will not be screened here in the UAE because the film makers have refused to accept the eight cuts suggested by the censors.  “Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to make the cuts that were necessary for it to be screened.  The filmmakers wouldn’t allow it” Piroska Szakacs from Empire International told The National.

And so the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo joins the long list of films that haven’t quite seen the light here in the UAE including Academy Award winning: The Black Swan. And though it wasn’t banned, all this talk of UAE censors board reminds us of the UAE’s censors decision to change the name of ‘Puss in Boots’ to ‘Cat in Boots.’ Yes, remember that? And even though Kipp was ready to jump to all kinds of conclusions we did find it a little interesting that Pamela Abou Chabki, marketing director at Four Star Films, which handles Dreamworks Studios’ releases in the region, chose to say the decision was meant to better target the UAE’s multilingual population: “It was agreed upon that Cat In Boots’ title would be more clearly understood. It is common practice to many foreign territories outside of the US to change a movie title to suit their territory better, which is what we did with Cat In Boots,” Abou Chabki said told Gulf News.

With a deep understanding of cultural values here in the Emirates, Kipp won’t suggest censorship boards overlook local virtues just to screen a variety of films. Instead we’d recommend finding a middle ground in between out right banning films, awkwardly chopping films up and imposing age restrictions.

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1 Comment

  1. Agi on January 3, 2012 10:35 am

    I prefer it when they don’t show the movies at all (à la Black Swan) to when they just cut them up with no concern for narrative cohesion. A romcom like “Friends with Benefits”, awful though it was, wasn’t improved by the dadaist glee with which the censors had cut in the movie, rendering entire subplots incomprehensible. Either show the films unedited or don’t show them at all.

    The Empire International quote from the National is lunacy, as though it is the film makers’ fault that GWDT is not being shown. I say good on them for not caving to the cuts and presenting UAE audiences with yet another diluted cinema experience. If it is anything like the book or the Swedish adaptation, the movie is very violent and sexually frank. If this is not deemed acceptable by the UAE we should respect that rather than try to lobotomise the movie for some extra profits.


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