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NEWS/Haifa Wehbe's Film Banned in Egypt

Egypt suspended Haifa Wehbe's latest film "Halawet Rooh" (Beauty of the Soul) after receiving harsh criticism for being “sexually provocative.” The decision to stop the film was made by Egypt’s Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab despite Egypt’s censorship approval of the film. 

The decision to suspend the film is believed to be a reaction to the flurry of harsh criticism the film received even before its release in movie theaters on April 3 for adult-only audiences.   

Directed by Sameh Abdelaziz and written by Ali Al-Gendy, the film is inspired by Monica Bellucci's 2000 hit "Malena.” The film revolves around the story Rooh, played by Wehebe, the night club singer who is desired by men in her neighborhood including a young boy. Wehbe's revealing clothes, sexually explicit movements and scenes of a young boy captivated by her have stirred loud discontent in Egypt, AFP reported.

An example of the criticism the film received was Ramy Abdel Razak’s article in Al-Masry Al-Youm titled, "Halawet Rooh: How to Produce an Egyptian Porn Movie." Abdel Razak wrote: "The movie doesn't miss one scene of Haifa without her exposing a part of her body."

Egypt's National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a governmental entity, said the film posed "a moral danger" which could influence "public morals negatively," AFP reported.

Despite that Mahlab’s suspension of the film was welcomed by many including Egypt's National Council for Childhood and Motherhood that described the decision as “wise,” the decision was criticized by many others. 

"The one who bans a movie because he thinks it breaks morals will ban a movie tomorrow for political reasons,” television host Ibrahim Eissa said. Film critic Tarek al-Shennawi said the film’s ban was the "first of its kind.” He said that all previous presidents had interfered at some point to permit movies that were critical of them to be displayed, but not to ban a film, AFP reported.

Reacting to the film’s suspension, the head of Egypt’s censorship board, Ahmed Awad, resigned from his post. Awad said that his resignation was to express his standing by the decision to allow the film to be shown. “I took the decision to allow the movie, I stand by it and I bear complete responsibility,” Awad said, Arab News reported. 

by Dina Shehata 

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