Lebanon Bans 'The Attack' Because It Was Partly Filmed in Israel

The Lebanese Interior Ministry revoked the permit for the film following a letter of protest from the Israel Boycott Office of the Arab League.

Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
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Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman

Lebanese authorities have banned cinemas there from screening the Lebanese-made film “The Attack,” apparently because some of the scenes were shot in Tel Aviv and because it features a number of Israeli actors.

Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel “has decided to punish us and the film by banning it,” director Ziad Doueiri posted, in English, on his Facebook page Saturday. “We were asked to return the permit [for the film] ... to authorities, [who claimed] that the reason for the rejection is that I ... had spent time in Israel filming.”

“To set things straight, I did shoot part of the film in Tel Aviv because this is where part of the story takes place. I used Israeli actors because also these were the artistic choices that I have made. And I have no regret and no apologies whatsoever.”

“The Attack” is based on a novel written by Algerian author Yasmina Khadra and tells the story of an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv. After a suicide bombing, he discovers a dark secret about his wife.

Featured Israeli actors include Evgenia Dodena, Reymond Amsalem, Dvir Benedek, Uri Gavriel and Ezra Dagan.

The film won three prizes in Hollywood this weekend as part of the COLCOA French film festival − the Audience Award, the Special Critics’ Prize and the Coming Soon award. It is scheduled for release in May in France, and in June in the United States.

Doueiri said he had initially received permission from Lebanese authorities to make the film, though the Culture Ministry later refused to submit it to the Oscars as a Lebanese entry, he said. At the time, the ministry cited the Israeli connection as the reason for its refusal.

The Lebanese Interior Ministry revoked the permit for the film following a letter of protest from the Israel Boycott Office of the Arab League, Doueiri said.

“This decision to ban the film by the Lebanese Ministry of Interior is foolish and unfair. It does not end the occupation; it does not improve their situation either. All this does in the end is portray Lebanon in a negative light, and tell us, filmmakers, that we if think outside of the box, we’ll be considered pariahs and outlaws,” he wrote.

“There have been several other Palestinian films that were filmed in Israel, with Israeli actors and even some Israeli financing, yet, they were allowed to screen in Beirut. Why them and not this film? Are Lebanese supposed to carry the Palestinian flag higher than the Palestinians themselves? And who are they punishing really?”

“The Attack” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in the United States in September. It has been screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and numerous others around the world, picking up, among other awards, Special Mention at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Even if the ban on the movie remains in effect, it likely will still be pirated and viewed illegally, as has been the case with other banned Lebanese films. But even if many Lebanese viewers watch the movie, no one involved in making the film will see any revenues from their native country now that it has been banned.

A scene from "The Attack" by Ziad Doueiri.Credit: Courtesy

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