The United Arab Emirates announced on Sunday that it will screen the international versions of films in cinemas as is and not censor them any more.
According to the UAE’s Media Regulatory Office, instead of cutting scenes from films, a new classification will be introduced with a minimum age limit of 21 years to regulate the viewership of content deemed inappropriate.
The move comes four years after the Emirati kingdom lifted its ban on cinema halls in 2017. That was the first step towards opening up the country’s entertainment sector. However, content was still subject to scrutiny and censorship.
Inappropriate content usually refers to scenes or films that contain nudity, sex, references to homosexuality, and everything that is considered to be in contradiction to the predominantly Islamic rules of the countries in the Middle East. Censors in the seven emirates that form the UAE, and elsewhere in the Middle East, have long removed such scenes from cinematic releases – sometimes leading to plot holes. In some cases, films with content considered inappropriate have been banned as well.
The last big banner film to have met such a fate was Marvel’s Eternals. In November, it was reported that Eternals would not play in Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. The decision to pull the film from cinemas was likely made over the inclusion of a gay superhero in the film and intimate scenes featuring a same-sex couple.
Homosexuality is still officially illegal across the Gulf, and films containing anything related to LGBTQIA+ issues are frequently pulled from release.
With Tyree Henry’s Phastos, Eternals introduced the first-ever Black gay superhero in a Marvel film. The Chloe Zhao directorial, that was supposed to release in these countries on November 11, faced edit requests from local censors, which were reportedly turned down by Disney.
While the film was quietly removed from the ticket booking websites of some of the countries, the UAE still had it listed as coming soon.
A Deadline report had suggested at the time that the UAE, and countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, would screen the film after deleting all scenes of intimacy – both homosexual and heterosexual. It is unclear as of now whether Eternals will be screened in UAE in its original form.