Lebanon overturns ban on Steven Spielberg's 'The Post'

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Some months back, movie-goers in Beirut who thought they were going to see the premier of Wonder Woman were disappointed when all screenings were canceled only hours before showtime because the lead role was played by Gal Gadot - an Israeli actress. Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe, was also banned previous year, two weeks after its release, due to the social-media buzz surrounding the survival thriller, which features an Israeli protagonist.

Last Sunday, a General Security source said that the committee in charge of dealing with films had rejected the screening of the movie because Spielberg is on the blacklist.

The film, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, tells the story of the Washington Post's efforts to publish the Pentagon Papers, classified documents that revealed the failures of the US war in Vietnam. In addition to the main character in the film being Israeli, one of the film's producers also is Israeli. Doueiri was questioned about his previous film, "The Attack", which was partly shot in Israel. There's nary an Israeli - real or imagined - in sight.

The Hollywood giant was blacklisted by the Cairo-based pan-Arab body after he donated $1 million to Israel during the 2006 war between the Jewish state and Lebanon. But he has faced few repercussions until now.

A source involved with The Post's global rollout says the movie, which stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, was presented to the Lebanese censorship board, which nixed it, citing a "boycott Israel" list that includes Spielberg due to his Oscar-winning Holocaust film Schindler's List (the 1993 film shot some scenes in Jerusalem).

Five of Spielberg's recent productions, including Bridge of Spies, were released in Lebanon. Lebanese citizens are not allowed to travel or have contact with Israeli citizens. If a Lebanese citizen socializes with an Israeli in NY or Australia, he can face jail at home in Lebanon. ". This is a great day for freedom of expression in Lebanon".

"The Post" dramatizes the 1971 battle by American newspapers to publish leaked documents, known as the Pentagon Papers, concerning the US government's role in the Vietnam War.

Free speech advocates in Lebanon noted the irony of banning a movie whose plot promotes press freedoms.

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