BEIRUT – the Lebanese authorities banned the new “Wonder Woman” film Wednesday, hours before it was due to premiere in the capital and after a campaign against the actress, Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli army, a security official and activists said.
Cinemas in Beirut began removing the movie posters and cinema executives said that the film will not be shown, because of the ban.
Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and the two countries have, through a number of wars. A particularly devastating 2006 war damaged Lebanon’s infrastructure and killed hundreds of civilians killed.
The ban is in accordance with a decades-old law that a boycott of Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with israelis. The official says that the ban issued by the minister of home affairs Wednesday is passed on to the distribution company, which, in turn, to the theaters planning to show the movie.
A premiere later Wednesday in Beirut was canceled. An executive at the Large cinema chain said that the company was planning to make the film in 16 of the 18 theaters in the entire country, but it would now be removed.
The security official said violators of the ban will face legal consequences, but he would not specify. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been published yet.
A campaigner against the film, Rania Masri, greeted the decision to put a ban on “Wonder Woman,” says signaled respect for the law. They said that there was a lot of anticipation on the decision the last moment, just before the official launch of the film.
“It was a joyous moment, the moment that the law was implemented,” Masri of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel, Lebanon, told The Associated Press.
A similar campaign against other movie where Gadot played the role of Wonder Woman last year, “Batman v Superman,” never transformed into an outright ban. Masri said that it is “different” this time because there are a large media campaign against the film that helped the ban.
On the front page of Wednesday, the leading al-Akhbar newspaper had a column with the title: “The Israeli soldier. She has no place in Lebanon.” The column featured a picture of Gadot that her Wonder Woman shield.
Warner Bros., that released the film, refused to comment.
Economy Ministry official, More Abbas told the AP that her department, which is responsible for the enforcement of the boycott of Israel, had delivered a request for a ban on “Batman v Superman” last year. But the ban didn’t come together. This time they present their petition to the security and intelligence services on Monday, she said.
Tensions rise between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel has reportedly bombing several Hezbollah targets in Syria in the last months. Israel has signaled that the targets were smuggling advanced weapons into Lebanon. Hezbollah officials said recently that they are not looking for war, but are ready for it.
On her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, sending prayers to the soldiers who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”
Masri said the campaign for the boycott is about “self-respect” and “resistance against” the normalization of relations with a country that is in war with Lebanon, and occupied Palestinian land. “First and foremost, she is Israeli. We make no distinction between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli,” Masri said of the boycott campaign.
The film, based on the DC Comics character, deserves praise for Gadot for landing a rare leading role for a woman in a super hero movie.
Although Lebanon has a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, in particular with content with regard to Israel, religion and homosexuality.
Some in Lebanon criticized the call for the ban, but their voices were weak in comparison with the boycott campaign that will be featured in primetime television in Lebanon.
“We sold a lot of tickets and we had to cancel now,” said Isaac Fahed, sales and distribution manager for Big Cinemas, the company that has the film scheduled for 16 of the 18 houses film. He said that his company would adhere to the law, despite the losses they would suffer. “We respect that, but we have a few questions.”
Fahed said the last movies with Gadot were shown in Lebanese theaters and her new movie will be viewed online and sold on DVD.
“The end result will only … influence on the cinemas,” Fahed said.