Why Spielberg's 'West Side Story' won't release in Middle-East nations?
After professing his desire to make musical features for long, acclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg finally ventured into making one with West Side Story. Following pandemic-induced delays, the film, adapted from the 1957 Broadway show, is finally releasing this month internationally but not everywhere. Reports have suggested several Middle East countries are not going to premiere the Disney/20th Century Studios project. Let us see why.
- Set in 1957 New York City, the musical follows the rivalry of two street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, belonging to two different ethnicities.
- Things take a turn when Tony and Maria from different gangs fall in love.
- In 1961, an original film, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, was released.
- Both achieved great success and there's Oscars-buzz around Spielberg's version, too.
Yet, the iconic presentation will not see the light of the day in the theaters of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar. According to Deadline, the film was submitted for distribution certification across the region but Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did not approve them. As for the other nations, certain cuts were asked, which Disney, presumably, has refused to make.
Some portals suggested the censoring is related to the teenage character in the production, Anybodys. As per the synopsis, the film will see the character as that of a transgender person, essayed by nonbinary actor Iris Menas. LGBTQ+ representation has often led to film bans in Middle East countries, one recent example being Eternals. No official reason has been stated by the studio though.
Coming to the credits, Spielberg has helmed the movie based on a screenplay by Pulitzer and Tony winner Tony Kushner. Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler are leading the cast, alongside Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Josh Andrés Rivera, Ana Isabelle, Corey Stoll, Brian d'Arcy James, and Rita Moreno. West Side Story is set to open in Indian and other markets on December 10.