Lebanon reverses ban on Spielberg film

Two days after censorship board blacklisted movie over Jewish director’s support for Israel, official says screenings of ‘The Post’ to begin this week

Lebanon’s interior ministry will allow the release of Steven Spielberg’s latest film, “The Post,” overturning a ban by the General Security authority, a senior official said Wednesday.

The security body had on Monday announced it was banning the Hollywood thriller to comply with an Arab League boycott targeting supporters of Israel.

In a rare move, the interior ministry chose not to sign off on the decision by General Security, which in addition to controlling Lebanon’s borders, is responsible for censoring films, plays, and books.

“Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouk is going to allow the film to be shown,” a senior ministry official told AFP.

The company distributing the film in Lebanon confirmed that the film would be released in cinemas in Beirut and elsewhere on Thursday.

US film director Steven Spielberg poses on the red carpet on arrival for the European Premiere of his film, ‘The Post’ in London on January 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

On Monday, an official from Lebanon’s General Security, which is responsible for censorship of films, plays, and books, explained the initial ban by saying that Spielberg “is blacklisted by the Arab League’s boycott office, which Lebanon complies with.”

The Hollywood giant was ruled off-limits by the Cairo-based pan-Arab body after he donated $1 million to Israel during the 2006 war between the Jewish state and Lebanon.

The two countries are still officially at war.

According to a Sunday report by The Hollywood Reporter, the initial ban of “The Post” was driven by the fact that the Jewish director had filmed some scenes of his magnum opus “Schindler’s List” in Jerusalem.

A critically acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, “The Post” recounts the nail-biting behind-the-scenes story of the 1971 publication by The Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the lies behind US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Post.’ (Courtesy 20th Century Fox)

There was no word on the status of a second film that received the censorship ax by Lebanon this week, “Jungle,” a survival drama about Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg who got lost in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon in 1981.

The film, starring Daniel Radcliffe, had been screening for two weeks in Lebanon but was pulled, an official said Monday, adding that the decision followed a number of complaints.

He did not specify their origin but a few days earlier the Lebanese branch of the Campaign to Boycott the Supporters of Israel issued a statement against “Jungle” because its main character is an Israeli, as is one of its producers.

Lebanon is divided on the boycott-driven bans, with some welcoming them as a bulwark against the “cultural normalization” of Israel.

Banned films can often be found in bootleg movie shops across the country for as little as one dollar, and even blacklisted books can sometimes be found in regular bookstores.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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