United Arab Emirates Moves Needle Forward Against Film Censorship With New Rating Category

“The UAE has evolved dramatically from where it was 10 or 15 years ago in terms of what is accepted,” Ignace Lahoud, chief executive of Vox Cinemas, which is West Asia’s largest exhibition chain, recently told Variety.
The new rating will allow uncut versions of international movies to be shown in UAE cinemas, though details remain vague.
The United Arab Emirates has announced the addition of a new over-21 age classification to its motion picture rating system that could become a milestone in moving the needle against censorship across West Asia.
Yet, while "West Side Story" is not currently playing in the UAE, "Eternals" was not banned there, though some scenes were cut. The UAE is now generally considered the country that is pushing the censorship envelope the furthest in the region.
The UAE's Media Regulatory Office made the announcement Monday on Twitter, specifying that the new rating for films classified for audiences aged over 21 will allow the international — meaning uncut — version of movies to be shown in cinemas "with an emphasis on the strict following of age classification standards for audience entry."
"While this remains extremely vague, let’s propose the release of 'Boogie Nights' in theaters and see what happens," commented prominent independent West Asia distributor Gianluca Chakra, head of Front Row Filmed Entertainment, on Facebook.” />
Currently across a large portion of the region, which is also known as the Middle East, movies concerning or containing sex, homosexuality and religious issues are routinely cut to comply with censorship due to cultural constraints, or banned outright.
Though it's certainly a step forward, the full impact of of Monday's UAE media watchdog announcement remains to be seen. The key aspect will be what films will now be allowed to screen uncut to audiences 21 and over.
Recent examples of Hollywood films banned in parts of the region are Marvel's "Eternals," featuring the first MCU gay superhero, and Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story," which has a transgender character named Anybodys.

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