Middle East Times
By Joseph Mayton
Middle East Times
Published May 31, 2006
On May 19 The Da Vinci Code, with all its controversy, was
released to theaters worldwide. Middle Eastern countries, however, have
been quick to pull the plug on the film. In Egypt, the film based on Dan
Brown's international bestseller did not make it to its planned release on
May 23, as censors did not give the go ahead.
Many in the
country speculate that the reason behind this decision is that the
government does not want to upset the Coptic population following
incidents of sectarian strife and violence over the past year.
"It isn't going
to be shown here because they are afraid the Christians will get upset and
say it is the conspiracy by the Muslims and the government," says Joseph
Fahim, a Cairo film critic. "But, according to the reviews from Cannes,
the film isn't very good anyway, so we shouldn't be too upset."
Christians, the remnants of the first Christian church in history, make up
approximately 10 percent of the population in Egypt.
According to a
statement released by Jordan, Egypt's neighbor, which has also banned the
film, the film "tarnishes the memory of Christian and Islamic figures and
contradicts the truth as written in the Bible and the Koran about Jesus".
The film is a
fictional portrayal that speculates that Jesus did not die on the cross,
but instead married Mary Magdalene and that their descendants exist in
secret up to this day. Following a murder in the Louvre, the story takes
the viewer on a whirlwind tour through ancient secrets that unfold to
reveal that Christ's heirs still survive. It is a fictitious account of
what could have been.
"If the movie was given the go ahead, it would
[have been] criticized by the Coptic Church and that is one thing the
government can't afford at this point," adds Fahim.
Despite the ban
on the film, Egyptians are heading toward the black market in order to
watch The Da Vinci Code.
"I am sure we will be getting this movie
soon," a black market DVD seller says. "People are already asking about
it," he added, but refused to give his name, explaining that the
government was attempting to crackdown on black market sales in the
film been released in Egypt, it is estimated that it would have earned
between $350,000 and $520,000.
"We have a huge market here for films that get
banned," the seller says. "I know right now that there are at least 50
people in my group that have asked to get a copy as soon as it becomes
available ... it is going to give us a lot of money."
described Egypt's DVD black market DVD, which is an eye-opener as to how
Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations deal with banned films.
First, one must
join a movie group. After buying a lifelong membership - around LE 50 ($9)
in Egypt - a member gains access to a library full of Western films of all
types. After this, the member may rent a film for a couple of days for LE
"We let people
purchase films as they choose," the dealer says. "For only LE 80 to LE 100
they can buy any film in the inventory. The films that get banned in this
country help us sell movies much quicker and at a higher price."
Farah, a member
of the group, says that she cannot wait until The Da Vinci Code is
want to see what all the conspiracy is about and why they banned the movie
here in Egypt," she says. "It is difficult for me to grasp why fiction is
so often banned in this country ... it just doesn't make sense, but with
this new movie club I don't have to worry about not seeing anything," she
market DVD copy of The Da Vinci Code is expected to run at least at
LE 120 ($24), according to the dealer.
Egypt has a long history of censoring and
banning films. The Ten Commandments, which was partially filmed in
Egypt was banned shortly after its 1956 release due to some accusing it of
Zionist propaganda. It is still banned today.
In 1997 The Devil's Advocate made a
brief appearance on the big screens, only to be eventually banned. The
final speech of Al Pacino's character, the Devil, was originally screened
without Arabic subtitles, but that did not stop the censors from cracking
not all films with controversial themes are banned in Egypt. Just last
year, Kingdom of Heaven was received favorably by both Muslim and
"They are quick to ban films without really
taking into account what is going on," argues Fahim. "Look at V for
Vendetta. That movie is exactly what Egyptians are facing today, but
they didn't ban that ... I don't see the consistency."
At present, the
only Middle Eastern nations scheduled to show The Da Vinci Code are
Israel, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The
film should be showing now, although no confirmation could be made.
The Da Vinci
Code is currently storming the American box office, remaining in the
number one spot for the second straight week, despite poor reviews at the
Cannes Film Festival.
Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights