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A new kind of censorship

Kuwait’s cinema chains are back in the spotlight and once again the results are pretty terrible. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, easily one of the most anticipated films of the year, was released worldwide last week and the response has been tremendous.

Currently sitting on a 98 percent fresh rating on movie critic site rottentomatoes. com, the film is one of the best reviewed summer blockbusters of all time. Its viral effect has spread through social media and Kuwait is no exception, but unfortunately for Kuwait, it’s not on the merits of the film.

People are instead speaking out about its new censorship techniques. The film’s plot revolves around five women who happen to be the last remaining fertile women on the planet. Like any post-apocalyptic society, the women are not dressed in the latest fashion brands.

These women are dressed adequately in a sort of white loincloth, but you wouldn’t know this if you haven’t seen the trailers of the film. This is because in Kuwait’s cinemas, they are airbrushed from neck to toe and reduced to floating heads on a white and sometimes black box. The first time the audience got a proper look at the women (called ‘The Wives’ in the film) and saw that they were crudely drawn boxes, the entire cinema hall erupted in laughter.

My friends shook their heads in disbelief - two girls next to me wouldn’t stop giggling whenever the Wives were on screen. Not only were their bodies covered, one of the Wives who was pregnant with a child had her entire baby bump covered. When did pregnant women become too sexualized to show in a movie? It was definitely a new low for Kuwait’s cinemas.

Another style of censorship occured in an earlier film. ‘Ex-Machina’ is a story about a reclusive scientist who managed to create an almost perfect robot with artificial intelligence. All the sexual and implied sexual scenes were cut (as per the norm) but so was all the dialogue about ‘complexes’.

No offending imagery was shown but any time the characters spoke about the scientist’s deity-like powers to create artificial life, the dialogue was strangely censored. This happened again, but this time, it was during a teaser trailer for ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ shown before ‘Fury Road’. The trailer begins with a slow close-up of a Superman statue, and as the camera focuses in on the statue, a sudden spotlight is shone on it and the words ‘False God’ is spray-painted on the front.

Except in this case, the word ‘God’ was replaced by a black smudge and the theatre let out a frustrated groan. Like the majority of cinemagoers, I’m eagerly anticipating the first big screen pairing of Batman and Superman. From the teaser itself, you can understand that film deals with how a being like Superman would affect the world realistically. Some would treat him like a savior while others would look at him like a dangerous alien that should not be trusted.

It’s a different take on the character that has being a pop-culture staple for over seven decades - so why censor some completely fictional religious undertones? Does it seriously offend anyone that Superman is reluctantly being praised like a deity? The simple answer is no, and for the people it does offend - they should frankly never visit the cinema ever again. The censorship hammer is coming down in a lot of Middle Eastern countries and is facing similar ridicule online.

Just this week, Iran was dealing with the backlash of banning Justin Biber’s Instagram account because he has a couple of shirtless pictures of himself. The feedback is unanimously against it just like it is in Kuwait after many had gone for ‘Fury Road’. The youth are confused and angry at being treated like they should be blinded to the outside world.

To paraphrase Howard Beale from the film ‘Network’: “We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take this anymore!” I sincerely hope that media censors hear this cry, because it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better anytime soon.

By Aakash Bakaya

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This article was published on 21/05/2015