Egypt, Lebanon, U.A.E. censors block Sandler film

LONDON Arab auds won’t be getting the chance to mess with Adam Sandler after his laffer about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” was blocked from Arab cinemas.

Pic, in which Sandler plays a former Mossad agent who escapes to New York and ends up working in a Palestinian-American woman’s hair salon, has been banned by censors in Egypt, Lebanon and the U.A.E.

Pic’s Mid East distrib, Circuit-Empire, is still circulating a print around the region’s remaining censorship boards but aren’t holding their breath.

“It is 99% likely that the film will be banned in all Arab countries,” says Circuit-Empire’s Bassam Eid.

“Zohan” has already been released in Israel through local distrib Matalon, where it has been one of the year’s biggest hits bringing in over 200,000 admissions. “There wasn’t any controversy over the subject matter,” says company topper Amnon Matalon. “Israelis like to laugh at themselves.”

While censorship has eased slightly across the Arab world in recent years, a number of subject matters remain taboo. Anything attacking religion is generally a no-no everywhere in the region, while sex is a problem in the more conservative Gulf states, although not an issue in socially liberal Lebanon. The country, for example, was the only Arab country to allow the theatrical release of “Sex and the City.”

Politics also remains a perennial bug bear.

Morgan Spurlock’s doc “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” has been blocked theatrically in the U.A.E. Distrib Front Row Entertainment is still looking to get an approval for a DVD release, as well as trying to get the pic, which sees satirist Spurlock venture off to Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden, released in other Arab countries. But, notes Front Row topper Gianluca Chacra, “We are also passing through a very hard time in the rest of the Middle East.”

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