Banishing Sex from Sanaa to Beirut
By: Jamal Jubran
Published Saturday, July 21, 2012
Once upon a time movie theaters existed in Yemen – and they were mixed. Women and girls were allowed in.
The theaters screened the latest foreign movies without the interference of the censor's scissors.
However, with time and the alliance between now ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and religious Salafi parties in the early nineties, these theaters took a severe turn for the worse – much like everything else in the lives of Yemenis.
The theaters underwent a steady deterioration and women were no longer allowed in.
The censors interfered drastically, to the point that feature-length movies sometimes became short films, only lasting for half an hour due to excessive deleting.
This led theater owners to use an innovative trick and mix two foreign films together to make one by connecting the end of the first to the beginning of the second so that together they would form a movie that lasts for a reasonable time.
Viewers would leave the theater confused wondering where the lead characters who starred half of the way through the film had disappeared to? Where did the characters in the second half come from?
At the time, we did not realize — due to our young age — that the censor was concerned for our morals.
These memories came back to me after watching the movie Bel Ami, based on a novel by French writer Guy De Demaupassant, on a DVD that I had bought from a shop that imports the latest foreign movies.
These uncensored movies help compensate for the absence of movie theaters in Sanaa.
I had seen the same film at a movie theater in Beirut when I visited Lebanon.
Compared to the DVD version that I have now, I discovered the wild extent of the editing that the Lebanese censor had done to the movie, which contains a fair amount of sexual content.
The film centers around a character who climbs the social ladder through encounters with influential and wealthy women.
The film was screened in Beirut without any sex scenes or logical context.
It merely implied that there had been sex by skipping to the scenes in which the female characters were getting dressed.
It seems that the Lebanese censor is also concerned about the morals of the population the way the Yemeni censor was.
So, will the Lebanese soon find themselves where were were many years ago, watching two films in one without knowing it?
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.