‘West Side Story’ banned in parts of Mideast over transgender character

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Few viewers in the Middle East will get to experience the epic love story between Maria and Tony.

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Disney and the 20th Centurystory of the west“Director Steven SpielbergAdaptations of the classic music have been banned in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. In some cases, as in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the film was not given a release certificate. In other countries, such as Qatar and Oman, Disney refused to comply with the cuts requested by the censors.

The move is not entirely surprising as Middle Eastern countries have strict censorship mandates regarding sexuality, swearing and other aspects that do not follow the country’s cultural views. “West Side Story” is not profaned, but it is understood that the censors were not with either man, a character who is transgender and portrayed by non-binary actor Iris Maynes. Films containing LGBTQ references have regularly been targeted by censors in the Middle East, as well as China. Recently, Disney’s comic book epic “Eternal” was pulled from release in the same region due to Marvel’s first openly involving a same-sex couple. In the film, Brian Tyree Henry’s supernatural character Fastos shares a kiss with his mortal husband Ben (Haaz Slimane).


“West Side Story” releases in theaters elsewhere on Friday. The new version comes 60 years after the original film (itself adapted from a 1957 Broadway show) and features Rachel Ziegler and Ansel Elgort as the star-crossed lover. Their new romance fuels a rivalry between the warring street gangs, Jett and the Sharks. The cast includes Ariana Debos as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, Mike Faust as Riff, and Rita Moreno (who won an Oscar for portraying Anita in the 1961 adaptation) as Valentina.

of variety Chief film critic Owen Gleberman Spielberg’s Tech Praised On the famous story, saying that the director made the film his own while staying true to what audiences loved about the central Romeo and Juliet-esque romance of the story.

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“Spielberg’s version has scenes that will melt you, scenes that will make your pulse jump, and scenes where you just sit back and enjoy the big-spirited grandeur of it all,” he wrote.

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