DOHA: Cinemas in Qatar yesterday stopped the screening of a controversial Arabic film, Halawat Al Rooh (Sweetness of the spirit), that has drawn widespread criticism from citizens on social networking sites for its allegedly immoral content.
The cinemas were asked by the authorities to stop screening the film, a few days after it was released in Qatar, it is learnt.
The Egyptian film, starring popular Lebanese actress Haifa Wahbi, reportedly contains sexually suggestive scenes featuring the actress in revealing clothes with a young boy. It also has a rape scene featuring the actress, say the critics.
Several cinemas, including those in The Mall, Landmark Mall and Royal Plaza were scheduled to screen the film last evening but cancelled the shows.
“We stopped showing the film after we got a letter from the censor board,” a senior official of the Qatar Cinema and Film Distribution Company, which runs the three cinemas, told this daily.
The authorities have apparently acted in response to a vigorous campaign on the social media, in which several citizens expressed shock and surprise over the decision to grant permission to screen the film in Qatar.
Similar campaigns are going on in Egypt, with the country’s national council for children and mothers describing it as abusing the rights of children.
“Haifa has used the film to show her body, disregarding the values of the society. Unfortunately, there is no action from the authorities to protect the society,” read a comment posted on a Qatari social networking site yesterday.
“The producer only wants to make money and not protect values. Our cinemas should be held accountable for showing such films,” said another.
“Watching such films is a waste of time and money. Why are you going there and then complaining,” asked a poster in response to remarks criticising the film.
“We have tens of Haifa Wahbys at Souq Waqif and we are highly appreciating the romantic film Titanic. Then why are we complaining,” read another post.
“Our newspapers gave half-page advertisement of the film. When I saw the ads in TV channels, I didn’t expect the film to be screened in Qatar,” said another.
“There is a need for strict censorship for films and we should give importance to Arab historic films and serials,” said another comment.
Ibtisam Hammoud Al Saad, a noted Qatari woman columnist, has also joined the campaign.
“It is sad to say that the film is screened in almost all cinemas in Qatar and it is leading the list of films throughout the week,” Al Saad wrote in her column in Al Watan Arabic daily. “The least we can say is that the film is immoral. It is the worst film, which exploited children and maligned them and showed them as mere sexual objects,” she added.
“The film says that it is for those aged 18 and above. Then why don’t they prevent children from watching it? And surprisingly, one of the actors is a child,” wrote Al Saad.