Lebanese ministry seeks to ban "Wonder Woman"

By Nur Iman Syasya

Lebanon seeks to ban "Wonder Woman" because of its lead actress.

31 May – Lebanon's Ministry of Economy has asked the country's security agency to ban the new DCEU movie "Wonder Woman" because its lead actress, Gal Gadot is an Israeli.

The ban was called for just yesterday, despite the fact that a "Wonder Woman" premiere has already been scheduled for 31 May in at least one cinema in Beirut and posters and digital billboards of the movie have already sprouted all over the Lebanese capital.

But the ban has not yet been made official since a formal request for a ban has not yet been received and there needs to be a recommendation from a six-member committee from the Ministry of Economy for the movie to be banned, an unnamed security official stated to the Associated Press.

The ban is being supported by the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon.

On their Facebook page, they have pointed out how Gadot is an ex-soldier of the Israeli army and a public supporter of their military policies.

It also cited that in 2014, Gadot praised Israel's military on their policies against the Gaza Strip, sending prayers to soldiers "who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas" on her Facebook page.

A member of the campaign named Samah Idriss had this to say about the ban: "The state took the right decision. We now await the implementation... Even if it's one hour before the show, they should ban it anyway."

"Wonder Woman" promoted in a cinema in Beirut, Lebanon
(Photo Source: AP Photo | Hussein Malla).

Though, it should be noted that the ban of "Wonder Woman" was not unanimously supported.

Lebanese supporter, Elie Fares pointed out how the movie must have already been approved to be allowed in theatres in the first place and that the call for a ban reflects disputes within the Lebanese government.

"Resist what?" wrote Fares. "A movie about an iconic superhero who has been part of pop culture for over 70 years. A movie in which the lead actress happens to be Israeli but who's not portraying ANYTHING related to her 'country' in any way whatsoever."

One of the boycott supporters, Idriss rebuffed critics by saying that politics is inseparable from art.

"We don't separate art - even romantic movies - from the role of the artist and the intellectual on the ground," Idriss said.

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince with co-star Chris Pine as Steve Trevor.

Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and, due to the animosity between the two countries, has a decades-old still-active law that boycotts all Israeli products and inhibits all Lebanese citizens from travelling or getting into contact with Israelis.

While Lebanon is considered to have one of the wider boundaries for freedom of expression among the other countries in the region, censorship still remains, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and anything to suggest homosexuality.

There is even has a website called "The Virtual Museum of Censorship" that tracks artwork censored by Lebanon since the 1940s.

For instance, last year's Egyptian movie "Mawlana" was shown in Lebanon with multiple cuts because its main story revolved around a celebrity Muslim cleric and the Lebanese movie, "Beach House" about a group of friends discussing their identities was outright banned in Lebanon.

In 2013, the Arab League – a regional organization of Arab countries in and around North Africa – called for a ban on "The Attack", a terrorism drama that was shot in Israel despite it having been made by a Lebanese-born filmmaker, Ziad Doueiri.

In 2009, French comedian of Moroccan-Jewish descent, Gad Elmaleh declined participating in a Lebanon festival because of concerns for his safety after a TV station alleged he served in the Israeli army.

And in 2015, Miss Lebanon Saly Greige, was in hot water for being in a selfie with Miss Israel Doron Maralon in Miami. Greige late publicly apologise and clarified that Matalon photobombed her selfie.

So far, for the current case on "Wonder Woman", the movie is still set to be released on 1 June in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. It will be released on 22 June in Oman and on 29 June in Bahrain.

"Wonder Woman" was already premiered in China and America and has received generally positive reviews.

Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot has earned acclaim for landing a leading role in a superhero movie, a rare occurrence for a woman.

Gadot is a model and former Miss Israel. She went through the mandatory two-year military service in Israel before she took on acting.

She landed small roles in a few TV shows and movies before she appeared as Gisele Yashar in three "Fast And Furious" movies, none of which were banned in Lebanon.

When she appeared as Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman", the same campaigners sought to ban the movie from Lebanese theatres.

"Wonder Woman" is released today in Malaysia and Singapore and will be screening in cinemas on 2 June in Cambodia.

Cinema Online, 31 May 2017

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