Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri whose award-winning film “The Attack” has been banned in his home country said on Friday that the Arab League has asked its 22 member governments to take steps to prevent the film being shown.
“The Arab League has asked Arab governments, Lebanon included, to withdraw the permit to distribute the film,” he told AFP in Paris.
“The reason they gave was very simple: they don’t want the film to come out, quite simply because Doueiri, Lebanese citizen, has set foot in Israel.”
“The Attack” was adapted from a novel by Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra and portrays the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of an Israeli doctor who discovers that his wife carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
Doueiri described the Arab League’s initiative as “appalling” and said he would be returning to Lebanon in June to fight it because “this film should be seen by Arabs”.
“They have not seen the film. For them it is enough to set foot in Israel and return. For them it’s enough to film in Israel for that to be considered high treason.”
By going to Israel, the filmmaker, who also has a US passport, acknowledged that he had broken a Lebanese law dating from 1955 preventing Lebanese citizens from travelling there.
The film has already been well received at a number of festivals including ones in Morocco and Dubai.
In April it received three awards at the COLCOA french film festival in Hollywood — the audience award, the “Coming Soon” award and a special jury prize.
The film is due for release later in May in France and in June in the United States.
Doueiri also won awards for his film “West Beirut”.
He will see Yamina Benguigui, France’s minister for French-speaking countries, on May 22 to press his case.
“Lebanon wants to show to the world that it is a democratic society, that it respects freedom of expression… but in fact (the decision of the authorities) contradicts its actions,” he said.
The 49-year-old filmmaker in April quoted the Lebanese interior ministry as saying it had taken action because he had spent time in Israel filming.
Doueiri said at the time that the interior ministry had said censorship was enforced in Lebanon if an artist’s work was considered to incite confessional dissent, attack morals or the authority of the state or reflect Israeli propaganda.