Politics, religion and sexuality have always been sensitive topics in Egypt. Censorship authorities have proven it over the years with their approval of very few films that tackle these issues. Films have been banned under claims of blasphemy and/or political defiance, and a lot of filmmakers have talked about the censorship stifling their creativity. Here’s a list of a few films which have been banned in Egypt:
1- Funny Girl
The film was shot in 1967 in America, with co-stars Omar Sharif, and Barbra Streisand. During the shoot, the Israeli-Egyptian Six Day War broke out in June. This had obviously caused a lot of controversy in Egypt and within the film shoot. Omar was Egyptian and the majority of the crew, including Barbra herself, were Jews. Although it was a huge problem, Omar kept his lead role in the film, which Egypt wasn’t too happy about. Egypt took its stance against Omar publicly in the newspaper, condemning him for kissing and acting with a jew, and then banned the film when it was released.
2- The Da Vinci Code
The Minister of Culture removed all copies of the book from the shelves before eventually banning the film. The story is about Jesus and how he may have married Mary Magdalene, had children and how their descendants are living in today’s society. The Coptic members of parliament objected to the screening of the film, under the claims that it is blasphemous and contradicts Christian beliefs.
3- Bruce Almighty
According to Middle East Online: ‘The Director of Artistic Censorship, Madkour Thabet, said that the American film “Bruce Almighty” was banned because “it harms the Almighty by daring to have him incarnated by an actor.” They banned the film because they thought it would be an act against God to have a film personify Him.
4- Exodus: Gods and Kings
They banned the film because they thought it was “Zionist” and “historically inaccurate”. They objected to the fact that the pyramids were shown to have been built by Moses and the Jews, and not by Egyptians.
5- Ben Hur
So the film wasn’t actually banned. It was in cinemas but the problem is, they removed entire scenes featuring Jesus, without notifying the audience about the cutting prior to watching the film. They didn’t want to feature a prophet on screen. I would highly suggest censoring the whole of the film, instead of showing bits of it and ruining the whole work of art. I wouldn’t say the film does the original one justice anyway, but to remove a whole character whose role is quite important for the plot, shouldn’t be allowed.
6- Cairo Exit
The film is about a Christian girl who’s in love with a Muslim man, and all the societal constraints that come with their forbidden love. The film tackles religious and sexual taboos that inhabit Egypt. Unfortunately, it’s obvious why such a taboo-breaking film would be banned from our cinemas.
7- Family Secrets
The reason no one’s heard of this film, is because the film’s protagonist is a homosexual man. The film plays on stereotypical gay clichés and ends on a regressed note that homosexuality is a disease, so I’m glad it was banned. Although, we do need more films and literature about homosexuality, we definitely don’t need films that reinforce hatred and misinformation about it.
8- The Square
I only got to see this documentary in the UK when it was released. The film was not allowed in Egyptian cinemas as it depicted several truths about the Revolution and the military rule that followed, which the army and the government probably did not want to shed light on. The film highlights violations committed by the military, and was thus obviously banned.
Many more films have been banned in Egypt under the pretext of blasphemy and/or political defiance. Let’s hope that one day, the government would stop being afraid to show the public works of art tackling sensitive topics.