(With reporting from Ankita Menon)
Harsh edits to Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-tipped film The Wolf of Wall Street in Qatar and other Gulf countries have prompted a flurry of debate among residents on social media about the cinema-going experience.
In what might be a new record for film censors in the Gulf, about a quarter of the three hour movie has been edited out, due to foul language and explicit content.
The film is based on the life of Jordan Belfort, who built up a huge fortune as a stockbroker, only to end up being charged with fraud. Uncensored, the movie has a running time of 180 minutes.
But at City Center’s Grand Cinecentre, the movie is only 134 minutes long – apparently a minute shorter than the censored version in the UAE, where residents have also responded unhappily to the changes.
In Qatar, movie-goers expressed frustration at the rough cutting of the edited version of the Wolf of Wall Street. On Qatar Living, one resident posted a warning to others about the film, saying he felt it wasn’t worth watching in Qatar:
“Avoid this movie as it is extremely censored, all adult scenes removed (yes I know thats the norm out here) and there are plenty so the movie misses several scenes and jumps/skips constantly.
All swearing has been removed and this movie is notorious for the amount of F-bombs get dropped, so you can imagine how badly butchered this movie is after censorship, if it is not being bleeped out its been cut so conversations are out of sync.”
Others took to Twitter to talk about their experience:
@Toryscott saw it at Villagio, lasted 2hr 5mins. Badly edited, which made the story disjointed. Wait for it on download or DVD
— Ricky McCosh (@rickymccosh) January 13, 2014
Indeed, some fans have questioned why the film is showing in Qatar at all:
@nat_high not only scenes are censored , but swearing too! You can't follow up with the dialogue. Why bother showing it in the first place!
— AbdulRahman Al Baker (@Aalbaker) January 9, 2014
In the past, other controversial films, such as Indian comedy Grand Masti and Bollywood horror film Raaz 3, have been banned from Qatar’s cinemas.
It is unclear which group is responsible for the censorship of this particular movie in Qatar.
When reached by phone, a representative of the Qatar Cinema and Distribution Company, which operates cinemas at Landmark mall, the Mall and Royal Plaza, told Doha News that film censorship here is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture. The distributors and cinema owners have no say in how the film is cut, the representative added.
However, the UAE’s National reports that the film was actually censored by its distributor, Gulf Film, before it was delivered to movie theaters across the GCC. The newspaper quotes Juma Obaid Al Leem, director of media at the UAE’s National Media Council, as saying:
“We did not touch the movie. They said that they made the changes because it will be used in all the GCC. We told them that in the future that we should see the full film first. Usually the cuts are not this long.”
Qatar’s Ministry of Culture has not responded to requests for comment about the film.
For some movie-goers, the biggest issue has not been the changes made to the film, but the fact that they were not informed or warned beforehand.
At least one cinema chain in the UAE has posted signs warning cinema-goers about the film’s censorship.
But so far, there have been no reports that cinemas in Qatar have followed suit.
Still, a staff member at the Grand Cinecentre at City Center Mall told Doha News that despite no advance notice of the censorship, there have been no complaints yet, and the film was “doing very well” in both City Center and at its sister cinema in Villaggio mall.
Lack of clarity
It also seems that Doha’s cinemas appear to be giving out confusing information about the film’s duration to movie goers.
Doha News contacted five of the city’s most popular film venues, who gave the following answers regarding the movie:
- The Mall: We were told that the movie is being screened in its entirety with an ‘R’ rating. A member of staff said the cinema “never censors movies and this is playing as per original run-time.”
- City Center mall: Running time of The Wolf is 134 minutes. Staff said they had “censored the movie as per strict instructions from the Ministry.”
- Royal Plaza: Running time of 130 minutes. Staff said that the movie had been censored and was running with a ‘U’ rating, allowing families with children to watch it. According to the cinema’s website, however, the movie runs for three hours, and has an ‘R’ rating.
- Landmark: Staff said they didn’t know how long the film was, or what rating it had been given.
- Villaggio: According to the Cineco website, the movie is three hours long. However, nobody at the cinema answered calls to verify this information.
Have you seen the film? Thoughts?