"We the organizers of Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya refuse to accept the censorship of creative art in all its forms and invite you to join us in protest."
With these words, the organizers of Beirut Cinema Days invite everyone to join them in speaking up against censorship in Lebanon. They are calling for a protest and discussion panel at 8 p.m. on Friday, in Metropolis Cinema, Achrafieh.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page, the organizers of the festival explain that the move comes in response to the censorship board enforcing strict regulations on most films that were part of this year's edition.
"During the 9th edition of Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya the censor was stricter than in any previous year and did not grant screening permissions for two films Beit El Baher (The Beach House) and Mawlana (The Preacher)."
In the statement the organizers also note that the censor asked many other filmmakers participating in the festival to edit out parts of their films.
"They were not granted screening permissions until the last minute when he decided to grant a one-time cultural screening permit."
A call for action:
Why were the films censored?
The Egyptian political thriller Mawlana revolves around a Sheikh who becomes a TV celebrity issuing fatwas to TV audiences across Egypt. The film highlights the issue of close ties between the state and religious institutions.
Mawlana is directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali and based on journalist Ibrahim Eissa's novel of the same name.
Upon its release in Egypt, the film sparked controversy but was given a release permit and went on to become a box office hit.
In Lebanon, however, the general security censorship board banned the film after it caused a stir among religious authorities in the country. They refused to permit its screening at Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya.
Beit El Baher
Directed by Roy Dib Beit El Baher revolves around Rayya and a group of her friends who reunite for the first time in years at her beach house in the South of Lebanon. Over a casual dinner the "characters feast on the building blocks of their personal and communal identities," and recount stories of their past.
In a statement posted on the film's Facebook page, Dib says "there wasn't a specific scene or phrase in the film that the censor board had a problem with, they simply notified us that the entire film annoyed them."
Even though the film hasn't received an official ban, it wasn't given a screening permit in time for the festival.
Beit El Baher, has screened at the Haifa independent Film Festival and was recently also given a permit to screen in Egypt.
Censorship on the rise in Lebanon
In recent years film censorship has been on the rise in the country, with many titles not being granted permission to screen.
March, an NGO fighting censorship in Lebanon constantly updates their "Museum of Censorship" with information on censored titles.
In recent months, films including Mounia Akl's short Submarine and Karl Haddad's My name Is have been banned.