"Beirut," a new film set for worldwide release on April 13, faces controversy as Lebanese officials condemned the movie for its portrayal of the city and social media campaigns called for an outright ban of its screening.
The film, which stars "Mad Men" alum Jon Hamm, recounts the adventures of a former U.S. diplomat in Lebanon who plunges into the country's civil war in the 1980s to negotiate the release of a kidnapped friend. The outcry revolves around the film being shot in Morocco without the involvement of Lebanese actors or locations.
According to the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Lebanese Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury condemned the movie's unfaithful depiction of Beirut. On Facebook, one activist wondered how a trailer for a film made in Morocco can open with the line "welcome to Beirut."
In an interview given to the Toronto Star, Jon Hamm dismissed the indignation as click bait, and said the movie was "exceedingly well researched."
“Why it wasn’t shot in Beirut is because you can’t get insurance issued in Beirut and because Beirut doesn’t look like Beirut did in the 1970s and ’80s," said Hamm. “There are just practicalities of moviemaking that I think a lot of people either don’t understand or they’re a part the outrage machine that just exists to create controversy and therefore either create clicks or page views or what have you."
Were the movie to get banned in Lebanon, it would not be the first time the Beirut censorship strikes Hollywood. In May 2017, the movie "Wonder Woman" was banned because it starred Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
More recently, Lebanese censors banned "The Post", featuring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, because director Steven Spielberg was considered too close to the state of Israel. The ban was eventually lifted after Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk deemed it suitable for screening, as it had nothing to do with Lebanon or the conflict with Israel.