A national controversy has arisen in regards to Egyptian film censorship of Sameh Abdel Aziz’s steamy movie, Sweetness of Spirit (translated in Arabic to Halawet Rooh), notes Variety.
The interim Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab made the decision to ban Sweetness of Spirit, in response to calls from the National Counsil for Motherhood and Childhood. He announced on the cabinet’s Facebook page that his primary goal was, “to preserve the morals of our children.”
In Egypt, the censorship board usually has the final say on movies released for Egyptian audiences. The controversial military-backed government’s ban of this film prompted outraged protests, ultimately driving Ahmed Awad (undersecretary to the culture minister and chief of the censorship board) to resign. Awad has been touted as one of Egypt’s most liberal movie censors, and was appointed in September 2013. He had previously approved the releases of Amr Salama’s dark comedy, Excuse My French (2014), about a Christian student who hides his religious identity, while enrolled in an Islamic public school.
Although banned in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrein, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014), has somewhat ironically been recently permitted for an Egypt release. This was to the relief of Egyptian freethinking audience members. However, the Egyptian Creativity Front labeled Sweetness of Spirit as an, “assault on the freedoms of thought, expression and art.”
Sweetness of Spirit stars Lebanese diva, Haifa Wehbe, as a sex symbol, singer-turned-actress. The movie was influenced by Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore’s Oscar-nominated Malena (2000), which stars Monica Bellucci as a woman who provokes a group of boy’s infatuation. Both Malena and Sweetness of Spirit depict rape scenes as well.
An international dispute has been stewed, as film critics in Egypt have challenged their governments right to interfere with the free expression of art. Stay tuned for more details related to Egyptian cinema.