Steven Spielberg is one of the most beloved directors in the entire world. He has been behind such classics as E.T., Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park. His more recent venture has been the film adaptation of one of the most known plays to ever exist, West Side Story. This new adaptation has been officially banned in most of the Middle East, though a reason has not yet been provided as to why.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE have seemingly all banned together to not allow the new West Side Story to be shown in theaters. Steven Spielberg has yet to make any comment on this news, but it has appeared that most of the nations asked for edits to happen in the film, and Disney flat out refused. The speculation is that the censorship request from these countries is revolved around the character known as “Anybodys.” There hasn’t been clear evidence as to why this character has been asked to be edited out of the film.
Disney has likely taken the side of Steven Spielberg on this one, as they refused to take any scenes or anyone out of this new adaptation. A similar situation has occurred with the new Eternals film that Disney just released as well. There are scenes depicting two characters that are homosexual and shared a kiss during one of the scenes, and that was enough for the same countries to ask to be completely edited out. Disney did not budge on this matter of censorship and is taking the same road in regards to West Side Story.
This is concerning news for the international release of the film, which was set to happen this week. While most of the countries currently banning the film asked for changes to be made, two who have banned it did so without any kind of notice. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did not approve the distribution certificates. Steven Spielberg has likely made his adaptation of West Side Story as accurate to the original play as possible, and yet, most remain in the dark on what in particular about the story has led to the ban.
West Side Story is set to release in domestic theaters this Friday and has already racked up plenty of good reviews. The current rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a stunning 95% for the Steven Spielberg adaptation. Rachel Zegler, who plays the lead role of Maria, has already been given Best Actress by the National Board of Review. The film has also received a Best Cinematography vote from the New York Film Critics Circle as well.
Steven Spielberg is not one to put his name on anything that will be a flop or will cause any sort of drama or concern, so hopefully, his art can make its way to all audiences throughout the world. West Side Story also isn’t exactly the most provocative play in the world either, so banning seems a bit extreme. At the very least, we all have Steven Spielberg’s upcoming sequel Jurassic World: Dominion to look forward to. Maybe the dinosaurs will break into some turf war dances?