Lebanon bans screening of The Nun on religious grounds
The Hollywood supernatural thriller, which centres on a young novice about to take her final vows and a priest sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania, was deemed by officials in Lebanon as offensive to the Christian faith.
The Warner Bros production was awaiting a screening licence from the General Security's censorship committee ahead of an expected release on 6 September.
"We received a verbal confirmation from the General Security," said Georges Asmar, founder of Moviegoers.me - a media agency specialising in the Middle East's cinema industry.
"Last Wednesday, the Catholic committee watched the movie and asked the General Security to ban it in Lebanon for religious reasons," Asmar told The New Arab.
It was unclear which scenes caused offence, but some believe the ban may stem from the victimisation of nuns in the film.
This is not the first time authorities in Lebanon have banned the screening of a film based on religious grounds.
"In the past 3 years around 5 blockbuster movies were banned in Lebanon due to religious or political reasons," Asmar said.
Censorship on film has had a negative effect on cinema ticket sales across the country.
"The Lebanese Cinema box office [has been] directly affected and the decrease in ticket sales was remarkable," Asmar told The New Arab. "[There was] around 20 percent decrease between 2018 and 2017."
While Lebanon's film censorship bodies are seen to take the decision to ban films lightly, critics argue it is local cinemas who bear the brunt.
"The ban in Lebanon is easy, but the compensation is so hard for cinemas," Asmar said.
According to the constitution, multi-religious Lebanon can impose censorship on local and international productions for a number of reasons. These include banning films for stirring religious and political sensitivities as well as those with sexually explicit content.
The 1947 law stipulates that restrictions should consider maintaining public order, respecting national sentiment and avoiding content deemed offensive to religions and sects.
"Censorship has hit an all-time high in the past year," film enthusiast and co-founder of Let's Talk About Movies, Anis Tabet told The New Arab.
Earlier this year, authorities banned Steven Spielberg's The Post, a film about government secrets and, ironically, fighting censorship. The decision was later overturned in a rare move by the interior ministry.
"When The Post was banned in January, bloggers and journalists defended the film and things worked out later on," Tabet said.
"But aside from The Post, so many films have been banned. Even some local films are victims of censorship. Enough is enough!"