AceShowbiz - "West Side Story" is the latest Hollywood movie that doesn't pass censorship in the Middle East. The musical romantic drama film will not screen in six Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, because it features a transgender character.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where censorship is considered the strictest, the film wasn't granted a release certificate. As for the remaining countries, local censors in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates requested cuts that Disney and 20th Century Studios refused to make, so the film will not screen in those markets.
While no specific reason was given for why "West Side Story" was banned in those countries, it is known that homosexuality is officially illegal across the Middle East. The Steven Spielberg-directed movie features an LGBTQ character, Anybodys, who is played by nonbinary actress Iris Menas. The film will still be released in other parts of the Gulf.
Prior to this, Disney's "Eternals" also fell foul of the censors in the Middle East. The superhero movie was banned in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman over intimate scenes and a same-sex romance.
The film, directed by Chloe Zhao, includes a sex scene featuring stars Gemma Chan and Richard Madden and a gay kissing scene between Haaz Sleiman's Ben and Brian Tyree Henry's Phastos. Disney/Marvel bosses refused to make edits to the said scenes and as a result distribution certificates weren't issued.
Angelina Jolie, who stars as Thena, praised Disney's decision to refuse cutting out the scenes. "I'm sad... and I'm proud of Marvel for refusing to cut those scenes out," she told news.com.au of the censorship. "I still don't understand how we live in a world today where there's still (people who) would not see the family Phastos has and the beauty of that relationship and that love." She added, "How anybody is angry about it, threatened by it, doesn't approve or appreciate it is ignorant."
As for Sleiman who depicts one of the gay characters, he told Variety of the ban, "They stood their ground and said, 'Nope, we are not going to compromise the integrity of our film.' It made these Arab countries looks so ignorant and pathetic."
"I have no respect for those governments. They have displayed to the world that they are not only a disgrace to humanity, but to God. Hopefully this will inspire the Saudi people, the Kuwaiti people and the people in Qatar to fight back," he continued. "[People in those countries] are going to find a way to watch it, even if it's illegal. And then they can give their two middle fingers to their governments. Because even when it's banned, there's a way."
"West Side Story" is slated to open in U.S. theaters on December 10.