'Noah' film to be screened, says Egypt's board of censors

'Not against Islam'; several prohibited works greenlighted

07 April, 18:21


    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - TETOUAN, APRIL 7 - Egypt's board of censors has ruled that Darren Aronofsky's film 'Noah' is not against Islam and will thus be screened, board chairman Ahmed Awaad told ANSAmed on the sidelines of the recently ended Tetouan film festival in Morocco. Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE have prohibited screening films that feature a man the Muslim religion considers to be an important prophet. There is, nevertheless, the risk that the film starring Russell Crowe may spark protests. ''This, however, is a problem for film distributors and the cinemas themselves,'' Awaad said, who is an artist himself first and only secondly 'the most influential man in Egyptian culture', as he can decide what the public can see. In June of last year the 46-year-old filmmaker and activist, who has made numerous feature films and documentaries, was one of the many intellectuals who occupied the offices of the culture ministry in an attempt to oust the Muslim Brotherhood's culture minister, Alaa Abdel Aziz. In October - a few months after the incendiary summer in which President Mohamed Morsi was removed - he was appointed Undersecretary of Culture and head of the board of censors, co-opted into the new system by Minister Mohamed Sabra. Many have criticized him for accepting the position, considering him to have ''sold out to military power''. He strongly rejects the accusation, saying that ''I agreed to take on the position I was offered by the minister on the condition that no one interfere with my work.'' Awaad noted, however, that the ministry's staff often causes problems for him, called upon to say 'yes' or 'no' to films, music, theater productions, shows and copyright licenses.

    Nevertheless, over the past five months he has said 'yes' to about ten 'banned' works, including 'Bad al-Tufan' (After the Flood, 2012) by Hazem Metwaly and 'Farsh we Ghatta' (Rags and Tatters, 2013), by Ahmad Abdalla, ''films that are very critical towards the interior ministry'', he said, or that deal with highly sensitive issues such as conflict between Copts and Muslims, like in 'Al Khoroug min Al Qahira' (Cairo Exit, 2010), by Hashem Issawy and 'Lamoaakhza' (Excuse my French) by Amr Salama, who had been trying unsuccessfully for years to get his works approved by the board of censors. Other previously forbidden works include ones on sex, like 'Asrar Aaeleya' (Family Secrets, 2013) by Hany Fawzy, which focuses on homosexuality.

    Awaad told ANSAmed that things seem to have truly changed in Egypt. The new constitution sets aside seven articles for culture (Articles 47, 48, 49, 50, 65, 67 and 69), and for this reason he said that the time has come to change the law as well.

    ''We are working on a document that I hope will be approved by the future parliament before the end of September, when I will leave this position to go back to my work as a film director.'' Setting aside the issue of the head of the board, the key question is whether or not the Egyptian public is actually ready to accept certain films and shows. ''The real censor,'' Awaad replied, ''is Egyptian society.'' A few days ago the head of the board of censors approved another potentially incendiary measure.

    ''I authorized Ridley Scott to shoot a film on Jews in Egypt,'' he said. ''This week it will be up to interim prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab to give the final approval.'' (ANSAmed).

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