West Side Story, the upcoming romantic musical film directed by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, will not be screened in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait as it was not cleared by the censor boards of these countries, as per a report by Variety.
While a release certificate was not granted for the film in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Disney refused to comply with the cuts requested by the censors in countries such as Qatar and Oman.
The report further adds that though the film does not have any profanity, the censor boards of the countries in question took issue with a transgender character called Anybodys, played by non-binary actor Iris Menas.
Set to release in the US, India, and several other countries on Friday, West Side Story is an adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name. As per IMDb, it explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. It is distributed by Walt Disney’s 20th Century Studios and stars Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as the star-crossed lovers.
It is to be noted that censors in several countries in the Middle East tend to target films featuring LGBTQ characters and references. Recently, Marvel’s Eternals faced the same fate as West Side Story in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar due to its inclusion of a gay superhero and intimate scenes featuring a same-sex couple. The censors had reportedly asked for some of the offending scenes to be cut, but the requests were turned down by Disney.
Homosexuality is still officially illegal across many parts of the Middle East, and films containing anything related to LGBTQIA+ issues or references are frequently pulled from release. Last year, the Pixar title Onward was banned across Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia over a single line referencing a lesbian relationship.