After the Da Vinci Code in 2006, Persepolis became the latest movie to be banned by the interior ministry's renegade censorship department. Ironically, while the first one was banned on grounds it offends Catholic sensitivities, Persepolis, which portrays life in Iran before and after the "revolution", was banned because it offends Hizbullah's sponsor.
While I have no doubt in my mind that the Directorate of General Security, which controls the country's human and cultural imports and exports, would have also banned a movie critical of life in Saudi Arabia, it is particularly disturbing to see its head, Hizbullah sympathizer Wafiq Jizzini, banning a film because Nasrallah and Ahmadinejd didn't approve of it.
Here are excerpts from the AFP story that confirmed the ban:
The Oscar-nominated film "Persepolis", which has annoyed authorities in Iran for its critical portrayal of the Islamic revolution, has been banned in Lebanon, an official said on Wednesday. The official, from the interior ministry's general security department, would not say why the French animated film would not be shown in Lebanon, even though it has been screened in Iran.
But another official said the film had displeased the head of security services, who he claimed is close to the militant Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. "It is clear that ... General Wafiq Jizzini is close to Hezbollah and he doesn't want to allow such a movie, which he believes gives an image of Iran as being worse off than it was before the shah," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Jizzini could not be reached for comment.
Bassam Eid, production manager at Circuit Empire, the company that was to distribute the film, blasted the banning as ridiculous and unwarranted. "The decision is even more ridiculous when you consider that you can buy for two dollars pirated copies of the film in Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut," Eid told AFP.
"I purchased two copies of the film from the suburbs and from the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and handed one over to Culture Minister Tareq Mitri," he added.
The film, which shows its young heroine's brushes with the authorities in the early days of the Islamic revolution in the 1980s, was screened in Iran last month but is not expected to be shown at mainstream cinemas. A success in the United States and France, "Persepolis" has been condemned by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government as Islamophobic and anti-Iranian...
Maria Chakhtoura, culture editor at Lebanon's French language daily L'Orient-Le Jour, said she feared the banning of might be a sign of worse to come. "Does this mean that Lebanon has become a small suburb of Tehran," she asked in a commentary piece Wednesday.
"This is part of an effort to eat away at people's liberties in order to plunge the country into darkness, to isolate it and to impose on it a culture it rejects." (AFP)
Unfortunately, and given the precedents Lebanon has in banning films and books, it will be hard to stop Hizbullah from arguing "why not this", and from having their way once again. We have let them set conditions for the election of a president and occupy the heart of the city. We have allowed them to import weapons and start wars. This Jizzini guy is infamous for disobeying his superiors, preferring instead to answer to Hizbullah. Banning a movie might seem like a minor offense compared to the above. Unfortunately, we all know that it isn't. I know that the heart of every culture-loving Lebanese breaks with every ban, especially one reportedly initiated by an entity that's rocking our faults and turning them into permanent divisions.
However, how do you fight this cultural and political invasion with such a faulty defense system in place? It seems, more than ever, that to win this battle for Lebanon, there should be a serious evaluation of what Lebanese values are.
If open society, cultural diversity and freedom of speech are at stake here, then this ban should serve as a reminder that Lebanese culture has been under attack for a long time now. Hizbullah is the latest offender, spreading a culture of death, laying siege to democratic institutions, and turning a cosmopolitan city into a sewage of expired values.
Lebanese authorities on Thursday went back on their decision to ban the prize-winning animated film "Persepolis," following an outcry and accusations that the censorship was aimed at pleasing Iran and Shia clerics.
"We have given the green light for the film 'Persepolis’ to be seen in cinemas across Lebanon," one official from the censorship bureau said on condition of anonymity without elaborating.
On Wednesday, General Wafik Jizzini, head of General Security at the Interior Ministry, which handles censorship, said he had decided to ban the film after Shia officials expressed concern that its content was offensive to Muslims and to Iran.
"The office that handles censorship matters informed me in their report that the film attacks Islam and the Iranian regime, and this could spark tension with Iran," Jizzini said.
"I can go back on my decision, I respect freedom of expression," he said. "But given the current political crisis in Lebanon, this is not the time to add fuel to the fire."
General Jizzini could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday on why he had changed his mind.