The republic and the flood

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Fetih 1453, a movie portraying the Turkish conquest of Constantinople, was banned in Lebanon on grounds of inciting sectarian tensions.

By: Pierre Abisaab

Published Monday, March 24, 2014

Darren Aronofsky's Noah is expected to be released in Lebanese theaters next month. According to its distributor, it was approved by the censorship bureau with "reservations," since it might distress religious figures, as occurred in Egypt. But Beirut is not Cairo.

In the middle of the tense political situation prevailing in the region, it is feared that the religious institution might break free out of the confines of its authority and descend on the public sphere to exercise its guardianship of civic life. Do we need to remind ourselves of Joe Bou Eid's Tannoura Maxi, [al-Manar TV series] al-Sayyid al-Masih, and Faruk Aksoy's Fetih 1453?

The aforementioned films were creative imaginary works, which were struck down for reasons of "faith." Where does the law, which needs to be developed, end and the arbitrariness of norms begin, the norms on which the republic of quotas and sectarianism is built?

Noah (starring Russell Crowe and Emma Watson) is a Hollywood production, using modern tools to relate a founding tale in human civilization. It is not shocking that the film contradicts the religious account. It does not claim to be a religious documentary, but does that make it "offensive" to religion?

Isn't the disclaimer at the beginning, saying that the film does not represent the religious account, twisting it according to whim, as is the right of any imaginary creative work? There are many examples of this: Jesus Christ Superstar (Norman Jewison), The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini), Jesus of Nazareth (Franco Zeffirelli). Did they all need to conform with faith as a precondition for showing them?

We hope that Dar al-Fatwa decides to keep its reservations against Aronofsky's film, from a religious and theological perspective, without calling for its ban. This would be for the sake of all viewers since the film does not aim to defame, distort, or harm.

Religious heritage is the property of all humanity and it is the right of all humans to find inspiration in their own way. There are currently diverse views and beliefs, which need to live in peace. There are also the citizens who have the right to watch international productions and judge for themselves. Let them do this under the law, instead of resorting to illegal pirated copies.

You can follow Pierre Abi Saab on Twitter: @PierreABISAAB

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Mr. Abisaab since you are of no faith and nothing seems to be off limits to you. Perhaps you could donate an S&M private video from your collection as a trailer?

Unawareness is the source of tension, maybe if there was a mandatory unhollywoodized lecture before the movie's playing? As such, people who attend the lecture may only enjoy the movie in cinema? But then, with the current situation in Lebanon, is it the best time to target movie restrictions? Should we not concentrate on concrete fundamentals first. Breathing Standards? Electricity? Water? Unemployment? Can the typical Lebanese really afford to go to the cinema? Are those not the sources of tension? Perhaps if these fundamentals are addressed, the movie can be watched in the cinema rather than provoking further inspired hollywood tension.

Well Mr. Abisaab,

I must disagree with your point of view. Not for Noah as souch, but for the trend of chipping away at the sanctity of religious figures through movies and other media, under the excuse of freedom of expression.
This way of doing, including the movies you cite, has contributed a lot to the trivializing of figures such as Jesus Christ in the western world (no capital letter). So yes to those who protect the heritage left behind by the sacred texts, in the name of a moltitude of people all too often enraged, but not protected in its beliefs by the secular state, while sordid characters enrich themselves belittling what others hold dearest.
This trend is seen in (pseudo) historical movies as well, that like to mix half truths with half lies and facts with fiction, leaving the unaware (the largest majority) viewers with a distorted idea of what happened.

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