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24th April

City of Restricted Life...

Nice 'n' Naughty

Cinema and DVD censorship in UAE
Link Here

UAE flagHuddled around a camp fire in the dunes, a group of young Emirati men drink vodka from plastic cups. Later, in the VIP area of a club, they swig magnums of champagne, eyeing the Western girls in miniskirts dancing by their table.

This week, these scenes will be on big screens all over Dubai. They're from City of Life , the nation's first big-budget feature film, written and directed by Emirati Ali Mostafa.

Ten years ago, no way would I have been able to show that, Mostafa tells Time Out. I'm surprised I'm able to show it now.

Mostafa defends his depiction of decadent Emiratis by declaring: I did what I thought was real. He concedes the film could have delved even further, but reasons: I didn't need to make a film that was so unnecessarily controversial that no [Emirati] could ever make a film again. I'm just scratching the surface.

While some locals may take offence at these scenes, the fact that they've not been cut before the film hits multiplexes shows a marked change regarding the UAE's censorship of celluloid. Of course, there remain non-negotiables . A public cinema must not offend the nation's social and religious values, meaning any sexual or nude scenes are immediately cast to the cutting room floor. Also up for the chop is anything that could be offensive to religion (not just Islam) and anything that criticises the rulers of the UAE and surrounding Arab nations.

Mohammed Mutawa, a senior staff member in the censorship department at the National Media Council (NMC), sums up the difficulty of his job when he tells us that 90% of material – films, music, video games – is from outside our culture . Inevitably, elements of this imported material will conflict with the UAE's social values.

Still, the department rarely bans films, with sometimes humorous results. Morgan Freeman is entirely missing from the UAE version of Bruce Almighty because censors cut all depictions of God. Contrary to popular belief, Sex and the City was not banned here. But because all scenes of a sexual nature were cut, cinemas decided not to screen it – probably because there were only about 30 minutes of the film left to screen.

City of Life director Mostafa says he thinks the psychology of seeing it on the big screen has drawn objections to the more risqu้ parts of his film. True, there seem to be different rules for public and private viewing here.

Juma Alleem, director of the NMC's censorship department, confirms it is not illegal to possess an uncensored film on DVD in the UAE because it is a personal effect. There is no official intervention because it is for personal use. He also tells us that DVDs for sale in the UAE aren't as censored as in the cinema because he lacks the technology to cut them. Therefore, if there are only one or two sexual scenes, a DVD is released. If there are too many obscene scenes , it is banned. That's why Watchmen , for example, was near incomprehensible in the cinema, but it's possible to buy the DVD and see the film in its entirety – sex scenes and Dr Manhattan's perennially naked presence included.


World Censors' Links

World Ratings a useful guide from
Australia Classification Board (previously Office of Film & Literature Classification)
Australia ACMA, Australian Communication and Media Authority, TV Censor
Austria Bundesministerium fr bildung, wissenschaft und kultur
Canada British Columbia - Consumer Protection BC whose remit includes film censorship
Canada Nova Scotia - Maritime Film Classification Board
Canada Québec - Régie du Cinéma
Canada Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Canada CBSA: Canada Border Services Agency maintains a list of banned films and books
Denmark Medieraadet, classifiers (Danish language)
Europe: PEGI Pan European Game Information
Finland VET, film classifiers who use the word 'classifiers' honestly
France Centre National de la cinématographie: Commission de Classification (French language)
Germany FSF, television regulators (German language)
Germany FSK, film & video censors (German language)
Germany USK, Computer game censors (German language)
Hong Kong Television & Entertainment Licensing Authority (Chinese & English)
Hungary Országos rádió és televízió testlet
India Central Board of Film Certification
India Indian Broadcasting Foundation and Broadcasting Content Complaint Council
Ireland Film Censor Office
Ireland Broadcasting Complaints Commission for radio & TV content
Ireland Censorship of Publications Board
Japan Eirin, Film Classification and Rating Committee
Kenya Film Classification Board
Malaysia Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF)
Malta Board Of Film And Stage Classification
Netherlands Kijkwijzer, self classification guidelines (Dutch & English)
New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC)
Nigeria National Film & Video Board (NFVCB)
Nigeria Kano State Censorship Board
Norway Norwegian Media Authority
Poland Krajowa Rada Radiowym i Telewizyjnym (KRRiT) TV & radio censors
Singapore Media Development Authority (MDA)
South Africa Film and Publication Board (FPB)
South Africa Broadcasting Complaints Commission South Africa (BCCSA)
South Korea Game Rating Board
South Korea KMRB, Korea Media Rating Board
Sweden Statens medieråd (Swedish Media Council) The site is Swedish & English language
Switzerland Commission du Cinéma du Canton de Genève & Vaud
UAE National Media Council
USA MPAA Censors, but at least their advice is voluntary
USA MPAA's Classification and Rating administration (CARA) searchable ratings website
USA ESRB Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Self assessed computer game ratings