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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Lebanon's Hariri orders overturn of ban on Spielberg's 'The Post'

Censors recommended banning film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks because of director's links to Israel

Tom Hanks portrays Ben Bradlee, left, and Meryl Streep portrays Katharine Graham in a scene from The Post. Niko Tavernise / 20th Century Fox via AP
Tom Hanks portrays Ben Bradlee, left, and Meryl Streep portrays Katharine Graham in a scene from The Post. Niko Tavernise / 20th Century Fox via AP

Steven Spielberg’s latest film The Post will be shown on screens in Lebanon this week after prime minister Saad Hariri intervened to overrule a prospective ban.

Mr Hariri asked the interior ministry to ignore the recommendation from the General Security Directorate’s censorship committee to ban the film on Monday, according to Italia Film, the movie's Beirut-based Middle East distributor. The Post will now be released on January 18, as planned.

The film was threatened with a ban because of Spielberg’s links to Israel, a country with which Lebanon is still officially at war. It is believed the censorship committee objected to The Post because parts of another Spielberg blockbuster — the 1993 Oscar-winning Schindler's List — were shot in Jerusalem. Tensions have been heightened since United States president Donald Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last month.

Spielberg is reportedly on an Arab League “blacklist” after the director personally gave a US$1 million (Dh3.7 million) donation to Israeli relief efforts following the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, which has seats in the Lebanese parliament. Most of Spielberg’s films since 2006 have been released in Lebanon, although his name was blacked out on posters advertising 2011's The Adventures of Tintin.

Prime minister Hariri steps in

Italia Film's marketing manager, Carlo Vincenti, told The National that Mr Hariri had intervened following growing pressure on social media: "This is a big victory as it is the first time in Lebanon that a [prospective] ban on a movie is reversed. We are glad and pleased that justice, reason and love of cinema has prevailed, and we thank everyone involved in the strong lobbying done to clear an injustice."

Actors Tom Hanks, from left, Meryl Streep and director Steven Spielberg pose for photographers during a photo call for the film The Post in Milan, Italy. Antonio Calanni / AP
Actors Tom Hanks, from left, Meryl Streep and director Steven Spielberg pose for photographers during a photo call for the film The Post in Milan, Italy. Antonio Calanni / AP

Not the first clash between politics and film

Last year, DC superhero blockbuster Wonder Woman was banned in the country — much to the chagrin of Lebanese film fans — because the star, Gal Gadot, has served in the Israeli Defence Forces. Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe, was also banned last year, two weeks after its release, due to the social-media buzz surrounding the survival thriller, which features an Israeli protagonist.

Even Lebanese directors have fallen foul of the country’s strict anti-Israeli regulations. Director Ziad Doueiri, who is in the running for an Oscar for his latest film, The Insult, was detained on a recent trip back to his homeland because sections of his 2012 film The Attack had been filmed in Israel, in contravention of Lebanon’s strict laws regarding their neighbours.

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