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18 March, 2006

Celluloid insanity

How is it that a film which depicts Saddam Hussein as the homosexual lover of Satan is allowed to be sold in the sandlands, yet there is a huge kerfuffle over the multi-Oscar-winning drama Brokeback Mountain?

And how is it that the film Syriana, which was substantially filmed in the UAE, is also facing the Big Black Texta? What is the logic in blocking the depiction of a fictional Arab emirate locally, while the rest of the world is free to see it and draw their own conclusions?

Let us imagine the next time Shakhbut Al Sandland (to create an equally fictional persona) takes a little trip to Uncle Samland, and gets chatting with the locals:

HANK McBURGER: So I saw Syriana, gee, are all your ay-rab rulers really like that?

SHAKHBUT AL SANDLAND: Our rulers did not permit us to see this film.



Blogger fabio prado said...

Hm really nice point. This is the so called censorship nosense. I mean, what can be offensive for one person could not be for another. And vice versa.

I remember when we have censorship here until late 80's and it was exactly like this. Different reasons but same results.

18 March, 2006 04:16  
Blogger samuraisam said...

Double Standards? In Dubai?

I guess they don't like the whole oil company conspiracy theory type stuff, and I guess if they don't like it, it must mean it's true, because why else would you create a fuss?
And it hasn't actually been canned, just talked about by a bunch of 'lower' censors in Dubai and referred to the big boys in Abu Dhabi.

PS: your blog still isn't loading completely /:

18 March, 2006 09:13  
Blogger samuraisam said...


I have 13 first comments.

I win.

18 March, 2006 09:27  
Blogger One Nine Seven One said...

BB Mountain should be banned. Not because of being 'gay' but because its about 'gay cowboys'... and before you start calling me a homophobe, I believe Hamam: Turkish Bath which also has two gay characters in it was an excellent movie. However if there is any story concerning gay cowboys that is not going to be a Monty Python scetch then I am not going to be interested.

As for Syriana, well I have seen that film five times already and I think it is excellent, however I am not sure why it should be banned here. The political statements the film made could certainly be applied to most other Gulf Countries but not the UAE.

18 March, 2006 09:28  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

IMO, Syriana was awful. I wrote a review of it here.

Some of the stuff they were expecting me as a viewer to believe were so outlandish that it might as well have been a cartoon.

18 March, 2006 10:25  
Blogger The Devil's Advocate said...

Syriana should be banned because:

With all the extremist maniacs running around the region we do not need to provide more material to be used during recruitment. The belief that it is banned because it shows Arabs in a negative light is bollocks and anyone using it has a brain the size of a pea.

Why Syriana shouldn't be banned:

Actually, there isn't that strong a reason. It's not a brilliant film and it doesn't say anything particularly new. People who really want to watch can (buy it on DVD via Amazon, Download, Get a pirate DVD etc.)


Why Brokeback Mountain should be banned:

It's a bit strong ain't it? I mean, I'm not a prude or homophobe but the sex is a bit hardcore for a mainstream movie. Love is beautiful and I don't think it's far that people are persecuted because of who they love but that doesn't mean I want to see pensioners, amputees and midgets getting it on for my viewing (dis)pleasure. Plus Jake looks alot like Tobey Maguire which is going to ruin Spiderman 3 for me no end.
Plus, this region has a real issue with boy-rape in schools and busses etc etc and the last thing we need is more mountain people taking school kids behind bus sheds in a promise to re-create scenes from a successful Hollywood movie

Why Brokeback Mountain shouldn't be banned:

Can't really think of a reason. This isn't passion of the Christ people or even the last temptation. The society of this region is not mature enough for a movie like this (it's pushing the envelope in forward thinking European and American communities for god's sake).

Censorship is not something I enjoy experiencing but with all the crazies in the region and the Islamic extremism and that psycho across the pond calling for a revolution you really need to balance the value of entertainment with its ability to incite and walk a thin, thin line. If you have problems with the region my advice is to either leave (I don't mean that aggressively but it is an option I am considering very seriously) or try and educate people around you. Censorship is a symptom. It is not the disease.

18 March, 2006 10:30  
Blogger Mohamed Elzubeir said...

The whole idea of banning a movie because you don't agree with it, like it, or interested in it is as stupid as the person who advocates it.

If you don't want to send people the wrong messages, you need to counter those messages with your own, not hide your head in the sand and assume no one will see it.

18 March, 2006 10:54  
Blogger The Devil's Advocate said...

let's see how much freedom of expression you will advocate when the crazies come around your neighbourhood....

Before we can have freedom of expression and no censorship we've got to clean up the school systems, the (so called) press, the municipalities, etc etc...Because of the political agendas of this region during the 20th century the governments here have inadvertently created a fatalstic, reactionary and self destructive culture. If you don't get that in check and maintain a semblance of control this whole region will go up in flames...

Although in an ideal world everyone could say what we wanted and watched what we wanted and did what we wanted we do not currently live in an ideal world. An ideal world would entail ideal schools and ideal people who put into practice ideal philosophies. If we can accept that the mentality in this region needs to berefined than why can't we admiot that certain benefits like freedom of expression that come with an ideal society/world must be sacrificed.

Should we accept the situation? No, but we must deal with it in a non destructive matter.

This is not europe.

18 March, 2006 11:01  
Blogger The Devil's Advocate said...

Everyone should have a good read of Tim Newman's review at review Very Insightful.

18 March, 2006 11:14  
Blogger samuraisam said...

devil: broken link + it was already linked to /:

18 March, 2006 11:17  
Blogger al-republican said...

Just a question for all anti-censorship folks:

Should censorship even exist? Please explain the reason supporting or not supporting it. Also, I would like to know what vectors and limits should be set for censorship (that's if you believe things should be censored at all).

Looking forward to hear from all regular contributors on this one!

18 March, 2006 12:17  
Blogger Tainted Female said...

No matter how bad it STILL is, you have to give a little credit where credit is due. Censorship today isn’t half of what it was when I first arrived here, 11 years ago. A nurse friend of mine couldn’t get educational tapes about breast cancer through customs (or even watch it in their presence or under their roof) because it involved nude breasts and examination techniques.

So come on, it may still be insane, but it’s getting better!

18 March, 2006 14:26  
Blogger archer14 said...

Censoring both movies is a pretty lame thing to do when piracy is at extremely high levels here (read what Nicholas Coates adds in this article here. Every person who thought Brokeback should be given a miss will definitely want to watch it. As regards Syriana, I feel it won't make a difference whether it was banned or not. As Tim says, it truly is a god-awful movie. It's as if the editor went schizoprenic, every scene starts and ends with the story to be assumed by the viewer. Then why the hell am I watching a movie in the first place?

I'd like to know why Munich wasn't banned in this case. Doesn't it rouse any 'sentiments' when he Palestinans are systematically wiped off one at a time?

I don't know why Brokeback's being trageted for the love scenes. Granted there are some strong scenes, which other movie doesn't have them these days? Has anyone seen the Basic Instinct 2 trailer? By the looks of it, its a fabulous porn movie with a story.
Everyone should have had the chance to have seen Brokeback. The cinematography and the soundtrack will mesmerize you, not to mention the heart wrenching finale. It's one hell of a beauty.

Censorship is useful when you want to protect anything from minors. Censorship loses its meaning when you are a responsible adult.

In these days of 'the bluetooth' and on-demand access to virtually any info online, the word will be omitted from the dictionary in a decade or two.

18 March, 2006 14:51  
Blogger al-republican said...


You said, "Censorship is useful when you want to protect anything from minors. Censorship loses its meaning when you are a responsible adult."

Fair enough. But, I would ask you why something is harmful for a minor and not for an adult? First of all, the definition of adult vs. minor is very shady. Secondly, crime committed around the World would suggest that it is the "responsible adult" rather than the minors who are causing harm to the society.

Anyways, I would like to hear more from others as yourself. I think this discussion really will end up going somewhere!


18 March, 2006 15:07  
Blogger Precious said...

Tidbit: When I told a friend of mine why Munich was shown in the UAE without much regard and Syriana is making such a fuss, she unblinkingly told me “oh because in Munich Israelis get murdered.”

I was a bit taken a back by this. How blunt can you get, eh? It’s like it’s okay to show that a show that puts Israelis as victims in the cinemas of an anti-Israeli country “because they get killed in the end anyway”…hmmm how vindictive.

18 March, 2006 15:15  
Blogger archer14 said...

Take for example china, go to and type "tiananmen square". You will get precisely 3 pages of results. Try the same on and see the difference. It's chilling to see Orwell's '1984' come to life. Censorship of this kind is harmful, and in reality sets the stage for an Orwellian world. Who knows whats happening in China. Brute strenght has helped them all this while, maybe someday the same will boomerang against them. It might not happen until media ceases to exist.

18 March, 2006 15:35  
Blogger archer14 said...

Not enforcing censorship on kids is like giving a child a loaded gun. He's not mature enough to understand the concept of life or death. To him the toy is more important than either. The same child won't give a fig when he plans to kill someone in cold blood, years later. He's been there, done that. And it's a well known fact that most killers haven't even had a 'childhood' for that matter.

I've been playing games since I was a kid and I still do. All these years of virtually blowing up people to bits and pieces have made me immune to what people experience when watching poor Emily get exorcised or any horror movie for that matter. I'm watching it and wondering "that wasn't that scary! Doom 3/F.E.A.Rs even scarier than that"

18 March, 2006 15:45  
Blogger secretdubai said...

People either love or loathe Syriana, they either think is brilliant or awful.

I imagine I would probably appreciate that it was brilliant, but utterly loathe it. Much like Ulysses (Joyce, not Homer).

18 March, 2006 15:50  
Blogger One Nine Seven One said...

Refering to Balushi's superman and harry potter statement... i think he has a point with regards to Syriana.

This film doesnt encourage terroism nor plays as a 'recruitment video'. It skillfully shows how the most down trodden of our society can resualt to terroism.

*******SPOILOR ALERT*******

Even at the very ending when the two kids were heading towards the oil tanker you could still see that they were in doubt about what they were about 2 do.

Showing the causes off terroism isnt a justification for terroism and I think it takes alot more than one Hollywood movie to turn anyone into a suicide bomber.

18 March, 2006 17:20  
Blogger Hot Lemon& Honey said...

Devil's Advocate, Al Republican...really good points...
I like Tim Newmans review of the film..

18 March, 2006 19:30  
Blogger the shadow said...

If somebody has a problem with certain subject matter then the best solution is obviously to not go and see the movie. And feel free to not recommend it to any of your acquaintances.

But I don't undersand why there is any need for censorship. It's only true function is to artificially support, promote or sustain a philosophy, attitude or worldview which would, by implication, not stand up to open, critical scrutiny on its own merit.

I think that the UAE in particular has developed to a point where the vast majority of the population are educated, sophisticated and informed enough to make their own decisions vis a vis the cinematic world.

Age-based ratings system: Yes, because a certain level of maturity is often required in order to understand extremely graphic or overly complex subject matter.

Censorship: No thanks, who needs it?

18 March, 2006 20:34  
Blogger samuraisam said...

Would anyone agree that censorship is part of the culture in the UAE?

18 March, 2006 21:59  
Blogger Mohamed Elzubeir said...

the devil's advocate,

The problem with your argument is that.. well, who is to say what is 'ideal'? And if you have people deciding for you, how do you know when you have reached your utopian society? The truth of the matter is, idealism doesn't work. It's not reality.

In any case, censors are wasting their time. If you want to watch something, you will. All it does is rob movie theaters of profits they could be making.

Perhaps they should be lobbying for the complete removal of censorship, not the viwers. The viewers will see what they want to see.

18 March, 2006 23:20  
Blogger Debbie does Dubai said...

hi al republican :) ASL?

19 March, 2006 03:24  
Blogger jumeira_john said...

Watch or not to watch, that should the real question we all ask ourselves. And it shouldn't be a case of proragotive for some un-informed, illetarate folks sitting in their office and deciding what to do in our free time.

Hypocrites. They get a chance to watch it while us mere mortals spend our entire life in Dubai moaning and whinning on how pathetic the whole system is.

People, get to action, for the sake of the Holy Water of Mecca, do something about it.

Because as you know, now it's Syriana, tomorrow it might be someother good titles.

I mean, for Pete's sake, are we here to bend our backbones and work endlessly like some supermachines do?

We are not indians! (no offence on this one, Keralites, please).

P.S. SD sorry, I just got off the hook on this whole Dubai thing. Keep discussing it, though.

19 March, 2006 03:28  
Blogger BreastImplants said...

A bit late, thanks to Blogger problems but I finally made it.
Nice debate; I'm sorry they aren't showing Brokeback Mountain here. As for Syriana, I don't think I care for it as much. An acquaintance I know will be crushed, he was an extra in a couple of scenes *lol*

I don't get it, they did show Boys Don't Cry (where Hilary Swank portrayed a lesbian) didn't they? I watched it in India, so I can't remember if they released it in Dubai.

I remember watching 2046 (the Wong Kar Wai film) for the Dubai International Film Festival....and they censored nothing.
I saw ass and boobs...and some pretty heavy softcore action.
This country really baffles me.

I also remember being 15 and hearing that Basic Instinct was released in the theaters except it was so heavily censored that unfortunate viewers watched only half an hour of the film.
What's the point of even airing it?

19 March, 2006 03:35  
Blogger marwan said...

Re: AlZubeir
Agreed. Leaving censorhip in the hands of a third party only seeks to absolve you of responsibility. And prevents viewers from being adequately informed about a topic, however controversial. It is part of being a functional adult, that you are able to regard something with objectivity, rather than being outraged because someone or soomething else says so.

Regards, Brokeback: it is worth seeing, if only for the sheer imagery and unspeakable sadness of the piece. I think most people would be pleasantly surprised, but they should at least be given the choice.

Syriana has not aged well.

19 March, 2006 10:22  
Blogger the shadow said...

Alot of people mistake Syriana for a documentary, by which measure it coems up very short. But taken as a fuzzy snapshot of oil politics, it is quite incisive.

Dunno about Brokenback mountain, it's probably just another very lush Western once you get past all the sweaty faggotry which is only "avant garde" because of how mainstream the movie is. I'd much rather watch Nick Cave's "The Proposition".

19 March, 2006 13:44  
Blogger SIN said...

Was anyone surprised that nude scenes in Munich were not censored? Well, the full frontal was, but the scene where the bomb goes off and the honeymoon couple step out naked wasn't jumped over. Neither were two other scenes in the film.
What does that have to say about censorship laws in Dubai?

19 March, 2006 15:13  
Blogger hannibal said...

balushi said...
I am No.2!

18 march, 09.13

says it all really....

19 March, 2006 15:21  
Blogger al-republican said...

Hi dubaibuy :D

19 March, 2006 15:47  
Blogger the shadow said...

sin: It says that the rules are more subjective than objective.

Which makes the game of pirating the banned movies all the more satisfying. Very cat and mouse.

19 March, 2006 21:52  
Blogger snow white said...

It's ok, it was probably a public service decision not to show Syriana - it is seriously complicated, tricky to follow and not one to start watching after 7pm at night as it is also pretty long! I got halfway through and had to stop and regain my strength to watch part 2 the next day.

19 March, 2006 22:57  
Blogger blossom said...

If you want to know what all the fuss is about Brokeback Mountain, then go to

OK it's shorter and no dodgey bits. But it gives you a general idea of what the film's about.

20 March, 2006 13:14  
Blogger Cokey said...

The whole issue in Syriana is showing middle east REALITY on how Arabs are being advised by forigners (meaning they dont have their own brains) alot of corruption, how workers and laborors are mistreated.

That is the main reason why they dont want to show it here. But please everyones welcome to download is off torrents.

About BB it simply will encourage and inspire the local boys to go public with their relations.

20 March, 2006 13:28  
Blogger Lehihamra said...

At least if it is banned them we don't have to worry about people getting offended by it. You know the result when that happens...

20 March, 2006 14:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can download two deleted (censored) scenes of Basic Instinct 2 over here:
(DIVX file!)

07 August, 2006 14:13  

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