- Saudi Arabia screened Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther” on Wednesday night, the first film to be shown in more than three decades.
- But crucial scenes in the film were censored.
- Despite the lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas, movies in Saudi Arabia can expect strong censorship, particularly around scenes which feature sex, LGBT representation, and religious issues.
- Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is making efforts to modernise the country and make its economy more competitive on the global stage.
Saudi Arabia screened Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther” on Wednesday night, marking the country’s first film screening in more than three decades.
The screening was praised by advocates as a milestone in Saudi’s modernisation efforts, but attendees were reminded of the country’s conservative laws when crucial scenes in the film were censored for modesty.
The film’s regional distributor, Italia Film, told The Hollywood Reporter that 40 seconds of the film had been censored, which it said was on par with edits made for screenings of the film throughout the region.
According to Associated Press, the ending scene which featured a kiss between characters was cut, despite scenes that depicted violence being left in.
Awwad Alawwad, Saudi’s minister of culture and information, attended the Riyadh premiere and told Associated Press films screened in the country need to strike a balance for Saudi audiences.
“We want to ensure the movies are in line with our culture and respect for values. Meanwhile, we want to provide people with a beautiful show and really enjoy watching their own movies,” he said.
Last year, Saudi Arabia announced movies chosen for screening couldn’t contradict “Sharia Laws and moral values in the Kingdom.”
Variety noted in December that movies screened in Saudi Arabia can expect strong censorship, particularly around scenes which feature sex, LGBT representation, and religious issues.
Mario Haddad Jr., a Middle East distributor for Empire International, told Variety that films shown in the region are usually cut shorter than their international releases.
Many major blockbusters, like 2009’s “Watchmen”, were heavily cut for Middle East audiences, which critics said led to the movie being “near incomprehensible.“
Producers of the 2011 film “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” declined to show the movie in Gulf cinemas with the requested cuts, which prompted backlash.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to make the cuts that were necessary for it to be screened,” Piroska Szakacs from local distributors Empire International said at the time. “The filmmakers wouldn’t allow it.”
But Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the 35-year ban on cinemas points to major efforts by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to modernise the country and make its economy more competitive on the global stage.
Saudi Arabia plans to open about 350 cinemas and 2,500 screens by 2030.
The culture ministry believes this will generate $US1 billion in box office spend each year, making it the 11th largest film market in the world.
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