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The politics of cultural censorship in Lebanon

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A WOMAN sits at a table, a pen and a sheet of paper in front of her. Out of shot, a man’s voice begins to dictate instructions, which she notes down somewhat sulkily. “Replace ‘my tits’ with ‘my breasts’” he begins. “Remove ‘they could fondle and play with them.’” The injunctions become increasingly bizarre and hilarious. Demands to tone down or remove sexual language are soon joined by embargos on religions, political parties and historical events.  

“Do not spread your legs” (2011), Rabih Mroue’s short video, provides a tragicomic window onto Lebanon’s struggles with censorship. Each of the changes requested by the unseen man in the film was taken from a real list of alterations and cuts demanded by censors after Mr Mroue submitted a play script for approval. In accordance with a legislative decree issued in 1977, all theatrical scripts must be submitted to the Bureau of Censorship for review, and they must receive official clearance before they can be staged in public. A law from 1947 requires that…Continue reading

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