Officials are "surprisingly more concerned about banning artists and cultural movements" than they are about "the bombings, killings and robberies [going on in Lebanon]." That's what Lebanese director Farah Shaer told on Friday after General Security banned her short film from being screened at the Beirut International Film Festival (BIFF) this weekend.

Festival organizers released a statement on Thursday saying Shaer's short, "Wahibatouka al-Moutaa” (I Offered You Pleasure) had been banned, but the director told on Friday that after word of the censorship went viral on social media sites and news stations, General Security called festival representatives back and said the decision was not yet final. Interior Minister Charbel confirmed to festival organizers on Friday that the ban will remain in place.

"Wahibatouka al-Moutaa” tells the story of Imane, a devout Muslim woman who courts controversy in her community by making use of the Shia practice of temporary marriage to gather blessings for her late husband. Shaer tells there's no nudity or sex scenes in the film, not even a kiss: "If they are concerned about the language, content or insinuations, why don't they just put a movie rating on it of 18-years-old and above?"

The director also said the 2012 film has been screened at nine film festivals, including France’s Clermont-Ferrand, the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, as well as events in Turkey and Morocco. Of the latter festivals, Shaer said "I think they'd be more [conservative] than us if that's the case, yet it wasn't censored there."

Meanwhile, according to BIFF organizers, the previously scheduled French feature “L'Inconnu du Lac” (Stranger by the Lake) has also been banned by General Security from showing Friday night. No reason was given regarding the censorship of this film.

To see the full schedule of movies playing at the Beirut International Film Festival now through October 10, click here.


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