Lebanon bans acclaimed film partially shot in Israel

Ziad Doueiri, the Lebanese director of ‘The Attack,’ decries ‘foolish and unfair’ decision

Ziad Doueiri (center) with actors Ali Suliman (right) and Reymond Amsalem (left), on the set of 'The Attack' (courtesy/Ziad Doueiri)
Ziad Doueiri (center) with actors Ali Suliman (right) and Reymond Amsalem (left), on the set of 'The Attack' (courtesy/Ziad Doueiri)

Authorities in Lebanon have banned an award-winning film from being screened in the country because its Lebanese director shot part of the movie in Israel, using Israeli actors, the director, Ziad Doueiri, said Saturday.

The film, “The Attack,” is about an Arab surgeon in a Tel Aviv hospital who finds out that his wife died in a suicide bombing.

“I regret to inform you that the interior minister of Lebanon, Minister [Marwan] Charbel, has decided to punish us and the film by banning it,” Doueiri wrote on his Facebook page. “[T]he reason for the rejection is that I, Ziad Doueiri, had spent time in Israel filming.”

“The Attack” was released last year to considerable critical acclaim, winning the Special Jury Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival 2012 in Spain and the Golden Star at Morocco’s Marrakesh Film Festival. It also garnered glowing reviews at the North American Toronto and Telluride film festivals. However, Lebanon refused to nominate the film for an Academy Award.

In March, Doueiri told The Times of Israel about his dashed Oscar hopes.

“The ministry [of culture] said it had nothing against the film, but that it wasn’t ‘Lebanese enough.’ They also said they could not have a film with Israeli actors represent Lebanon at the Oscars,” Doueiri said. “I knew from the start it was a lost cause.”

Initially, the Lebanese censorship board allowed “The Attack” to be screened in Lebanon, on condition that acknowledgment to Israeli institutions be removed from the credits. It was scheduled to open in Lebanese cinemas in April, and would have been the first Hebrew-speaking film with a largely Israeli cast to appear on a Lebanese silver screen.

Ziad Doueiri on the set of his film (photo credit: Ziad Doueiri)
Ziad Doueiri on the set of his film (photo credit: Ziad Doueiri)

At the time, Doueiri called the decision to allow screenings “an incredible miracle.”

On Saturday, he said the ban “foolish and unfair.”

“All this does in the end is portray Lebanon in a negative light, and tell us, filmmakers, that we if think outside of the box, we ‘ll be considered pariahs and outlaws,” he said.

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