Universal’s “The Kingdom” has been banned in Bahrain and Kuwait. Helmer Peter Berg’s pic, about an elite FBI team that journeys to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terror attack on a U.S. compound, has been passed uncut in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, however.
Pic will bow in most territories starting Thursday to tie in with the Eid al Fitr celebrations, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
“The Kingdom” was the first Hollywood film to lense in Abu Dhabi, and pic’s distributor has high hopes for it in the UAE, where it will bow on 30 screens, despite the potential controversy over its political subject matter.
“It’s a big release,” said Gulf Film topper Salim Ramia. “There shouldn’t be any controversy. The real question is, Did this happen in Saudi Arabia? Of course it did. The film isn’t against anyone. It’s a good movie.”
Pic was partly inspired by the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings in Saudi Arabia, in which an Islamic fundamentalist cell attacked a U.S. compound. In all 19 U.S. servicemen were killed in the blast.
Hollywood films dealing with the war on terror have had a mixed ride in the Mideast.
“Syriana,” the first Hollywood pic to lense in Dubai, was blocked from theaters in Lebanon because it featured sensitive scenes featuring Hezbollah, while the film was cut in Dubai to remove scenes of the Pakistani laborers being beaten by Emirati authorities and living in cramped conditions.
“United 93,” on the other hand, passed in every territory without any problems.
Kuwait is traditionally the most conservative of all the Gulf countries when it comes to censoring foreign films, while Bahrain often has to deal with pressure from neighboring Saudi Arabia. While the Saudi kingdom has banned cinemas for the past 30 years, its residents often take the short journey to Bahrain to go to the cinema. There had been concern in Saudi circles in the run-up to the release of “The Kingdom” given its focus on the internal threat of Islamic fundamentalists.
There was no confirmation on whether Bahrain’s Information Ministry had received any pressure from their Saudi counterparts to block the film.