BEIRUT — The screening of the hit film "Barbie," which was expected to be released in Lebanon today, has been postponed "till further notice," an employee with Grand Cinemas told L'Orient Today.
Carly Ramia, head of marketing at Selim Ramia & Co Sal (Grand Cinemas), added that the screening of the Warner Bros. film, which has faced controversy over whether and when Lebanese cinemas will be allowed to screen it, has been pushed until Sept. 7 "tentatively."
Vox Cinemas Dubai, the distributor of the film in Lebanon, has yet to confirm the screening date, Ramia said.
Contacted by L'Orient Today, Vox Cinemas Lebanon was not immediately available for comment.
In July, the Barbie movie's release date in Lebanon was postponed in line with a delay across the Gulf countries.
Initially listed on the "coming soon" section on Lebanon's cinema websites, including Vox Cinemas and Grand Cinemas, "starting Aug. 31," the American fantasy comedy film, which stars actress Margot Robbie, has now been removed from these websites entirely.
An employee with Empire Cinemas told L'Orient Today on Thursday that the date of the Barbie film screening has yet to be confirmed, adding that "the issue lies with General Security."
Contacted by L'Orient Today on Thursday, General Security was not immediately available for comment.
General Security typically authorizes or censors films and plays before they can be shown publicly in Lebanon. However, a General Security source said in early August that the decision to ban "Barbie" is out of their hands.
Earlier in August, caretaker Culture Minister Mohamad Mortada requested that General Security, via the Interior Ministry, ban the film, which centers around the popular American doll Barbie. According to him, the film "goes against moral and religious values in Lebanon, as it encourages perversity and gender transformation while calling for the rejection of patriarchy and ridiculing the role of mothers."
Citizens across Lebanon took to social media platforms to react to the misister's call, with some hailing the call for censorship and others opposing it.
The delay has been met with disappointment and confusion from fans in Lebanon, with many organizing private indoor screenings of a pirated version of the movie.
Meanwhile, the Film Censorship Committee in Lebanon, composed of representatives from General Security and the Economy Ministry, stated on Aug. 11 that it has no reason to request the banning of the Barbie movie, a source with knowledge of the committee's proceedings confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour.
"None of the people in the [Film Censorship] Committee have a background in arts," Jad Shahrour, a communications officer for the civil society group Samir Kassir Foundation, told L'Orient Today in an interview on Aug. 25.
The committee can decide whether to completely ban a film or edit it by removing some scenes, Shahrour said. And this is done "without a clear list of criteria of what should be banned."
In early August, Al Mayadeen TV, a Hezbollah-aligned TV Station, published a video on Instagram criticizing the movie for promoting "extreme feminism and homosexuality."
In October 2021, Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, which advocates for media freedom, told L’Orient Today that General Security's role as the sole censorship authority in Lebanon breaches a 1947 law stipulating that a committee of ministerial representatives should oversee pre-approval procedures.
Movies in Lebanon are regularly banned or partially censored over controversial issues. In June, the country banned "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" over a transgender pride flag, which briefly appears in the background of one scene.
Last year, Lebanon joined at least 14 Middle Eastern and Asian countries in its decision to ban Walt Disney’s Pixar movie "Lightyear" over a same-sex kiss.