After weeks of controversy and delay, the "Barbie" movie is finally screening on Thursday in cinemas across Lebanon, including Grand Cinemas at ABC Achrafieh, Le Mall Dbayeh and The Spot mall Saida.
L'Orient Today is on the ground getting moviegoers first reactions to the film.
'Barbie fever' in Beirut. Journalist Mario Doueiry ABC Achrafieh:
Angie, 19, is here to watch the Barbie movie "to reconnect with her childhood."
"This film represents all the moments spent with my Barbie doll, but it also carries a feminist message that is dear to my heart. I've already seen the movie, and I've come back to watch it in theaters this time to defy the minister's demand to stop this film," she explains.
Mary, also 19, shares this opinion. "While watching the movie online, I was really expecting to see shocking scenes, but nothing happened. Our presence here is a stance against this anti-feminist oppression," she says.
What did you think of the Barbie film?
Nathalie, 45, is a mother of two daughters and believes that "the Culture Ministry is very disconnected from culture itself and from Lebanese reality.
Every time we have a cultural event related to artists who have been to Israel, the event or the film is banned. The same goes for the issue of homosexuality. These are people who exist, and we cannot ignore them. At a more advanced age, I will teach my children to accept everyone and not judge them based on their gender or sexual orientation."
Christine, who is 8 years old, comes to see the movie "because Barbie is beautiful, and I love her a lot!" she exclaims. As for Jana, who is 11 years old, she thinks Barbie is "funny, and she loves her personality."
City Center, Beirut
“We’ve had the Barbie collection in our store for more than three weeks now, along with clothing featuring the Barbie logo and the Barbie box for taking photos,” says Nour Zaza, the manager of Kyveli clothing store at City Center mall.
“This has generated a much higher turnover than usual, even though the movie had not been released in Lebanon yet, and we weren't sure if it would be screened," she says.
Grand Cinemas, Saida: Richard Salame is there
Fatima, a 15-year-old Syrian student living in Saida, is here with her friends Rama (Lebanese, 14) and Andalib (Syrian, 14) who also live in Saida.
"What’s special about the movie is it’s the real story behind Barbie… I’m curious about stuff that will tell you the real story behind a character," Fatima says.
They know that Culture Minister Mohamad Mortada claimed the movie insults men, degrades mothers and "promotes" LGBTQ+ visibility, but they disagree. "[The movie] is putting another mindset for kids and people in general," Fatima says.
They disagree with Mortada's analysis of the movie but said if the movie does in fact insult mothers and men and promotes LGBTQ+ relationships then they would have supported banning it.
“If it did support LGBT, it should be banned,” says Ahmad Zein, aged 20.
ABC Verdun and Galaxy cinema, Beirut — Lyanna Alameddine reports from both venues:
Cyrinne and Christine, 21 and 22: "We are wearing pink — just because we’re gonna watch Barbie. We wanted to see it because of the campaign, just to know what the problem really is."
"Children should not watch it if there is indeed LGBTQ+ content," adds Cyrinne.
Tony Youssef is the cinema manager at Galaxy: "Before the film's release, many people asked us if it was really banned, when it would be released, if there was really a connection to the LGBTQ+ community. We felt excitement for the film's release."
"Some schools have already opened," he adds, explaining why some potential audience members might not be in the cinema quite yet early Thursday afternoon. "We expect more people tonight... there's going to be work," he adds.
Le Mall Dbayeh, Mitn: Karl Richa is on the scene
When it comes to booking tickets for the film, "The phone hasn't stopped ringing. I've never seen this in five years," says the receptionist at the cinema in Le Mall Debayeh.
"People have been booking for two days, and the VIP screenings are full. A mother and her daughter are booking for 10 people on Saturday. An event scheduled at Le Mall Dbayeh is set for this afternoon."
300 people are expected at the 20:00 and 22:00 showings at the mall.
Timeline of the Barbie controversy
- July 20: Vox Cinemas and Grand Cinemas in Lebanon delay the Barbie film release date to Aug. 31, in line with a delay across Gulf countries.
- July 21: "Barbie" premieres in the US.
- Aug. 3: Al Mayadeen TV, a Hezbollah-aligned TV station, publishes a video on Instagram criticizing the movie for promoting “extreme feminism and homosexuality.”
- Aug. 9: Lebanon's caretaker Culture Minister Mohamad Mortada asks General Security, via the Interior Ministry, to ban the film. He says the film “ goes against Lebanon's moral and religious values , as it encourages perversion and gender transformation while calling for the rejection of patriarchy and ridiculing the role of mothers."
Many people take to social media in response to the minister's call: some welcome it while others strongly oppose it.
References to the film, which was due to be released in Lebanon “from Aug. 31,” are removed from the websites and social media accounts of VOX and Grand Cinemas.
- Aug. 10: "Barbie" is released in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar
- Aug. 11: The Film Censorship Committee in Lebanon, composed of representatives from General Security and the Economy Ministry, state they have no reason to request the banning of the Barbie movie, a source with knowledge of the Committee's proceedings confirms to L'Orient-Le Jour.
- Aug. 31: "Barbie" not released in Lebanon on its original release date. Grand Cinemas and Vox confirm film release is postponed to Sept. 7.
- Sept. 2: New “Barbie” release date is confirmed for Sept. 7 in Lebanon. Under VOX Cinemas' Instagram announcement, the comments were unanimously unanimous: ''Finally!''