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UAE Extends The Goat Life a Cinematic Pass, While Rest of the Gulf Gives it the Hoof

No legal hurdles; long-awaited pan-Indian film is set to release on March 28 in UAE theaters

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Ismail Meladi

Published on March 27, 2024, 16:06:51

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goat life, movie, uae, ban, Prithviraj sukumaran

As the long-awaited pan-Indian film Goat Life (titled "Aadu Jeevitham" in Malayalam), starring Prithviraj Sukumaran, is set to release on March 28, 2024, in UAE theaters, film enthusiasts are breathing a sigh of relief that it has not faced the axe here, unlike in other GCC countries.

Recently, the Bollywood movie Fighter, starring Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, was banned in the UAE, as were Malayalam movies Gaddama and Sameer a few years back, for violating the regulatory framework of the UAE.

Goat Life delves into the challenges faced by a migrant worker working as a goatherd in Saudi Arabia. Given the sensitive nature of certain themes depicted in the film, there were concerns about potential backlash or suspension in the UAE as well. The portrayal of the struggles of migrant workers and life in Saudi Arabia could have attracted scrutiny in the UAE, highlighting the ongoing tension between artistic expression and cultural considerations.

Unwanted Comparisons

"It’s a fact that some Indian media outlets with vested political interests are celebrating the ban of Goat Life in GCC countries except in the UAE. They are using the ban to draw comparisons and interpretations related to freedom of expression in India, where the legal system differs," said Nisar Ibrahim, an award-winning short film director and sculptor, who was part of the crew of many Indian films shot in the UAE.

Nisar Ibrahim

"As an expatriate film enthusiast working in the UAE, I am proud and happy that Goat Life is not banned here, as it does not undermine Arab culture or the legal system of the GCC countries. The decision to avoid risk and ban the movie might stem from the impression that the script or content could be harmful, often fuelled by propaganda. In fact, Saudi Arabia only recently opened its doors to films. Their decision to ban the movie might be part of their efforts to uphold their regulations," continued Nisar.

"I was part of another movie, Sameer, with a script similar to the content of Goat Life. It was not allowed to be screened in the UAE. But Goat Life has been cleared. This shows that UAE authorities are convinced that 'Goat Life' is a film with content that will attract international exposure and won’t offend Arab culture," he said, hoping that other GCC countries will follow suit once the film is released.

UAE Open-minded

"The cultural landscape in the UAE differs from that of other GCC countries. It has an open mind towards literature, theater, and stage shows, which is precisely why Goat Life received permission for screening," said Shaji Haneef, a prominent writer in the UAE and producer of many short films.

Shaji Haneef

"It’s a docu-fiction and does not depict a cross-section of Arabia. It’s only a part of it and cannot be generalised. A story, cinema, or art form depicts an exceptional piece of work. 'Goat Life' is a rare incident. Generally, Arabs are very lovable, and they have contributed many positive aspects to our lives," said Shaji, who is also a well-established businessman.

Survival Drama

Goat Life is a survival drama film written, directed, and co-produced by the renowned Indian director Blessy. The film is an international co-production involving companies from India and the United States. It is an adaptation of the 2008 Malayalam novel Aadujeevitham by Benyamin, which he claims is based on a true incident.

The film stars Prithviraj Sukumaran as the protagonist Najeeb, an Indian immigrant laborer from Kerala who finds himself forced into slavery as a goatherd on a secluded farm in Saudi Arabia.

The Arabic translation of Aadujeevitham was banned in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The novel earned several awards, including the Kerala Sahitya Academy Award in 2009. It was translated into English, Hindi, and other Indian languages, making a significant literary impact.

The recent suspension of Fighter in the UAE highlights the delicate balance that authorities strive to maintain between cultural norms and the portrayal of content in films. The government's unwavering commitment to preserving cultural and religious sensitivities has led to the temporary cessation of movies found to contravene these values.

The meticulous scrutiny of content in the UAE was further exemplified by the situation surrounding the Barbie movie, which encountered restrictions due to its portrayal of themes conflicting with cultural norms and sensitivities.

Prohibition Criteria in the UAE

The UAE authorities have established specific criteria which, if breached, can result in the prohibition or suspension of films. Here are nine primary reasons behind such determinations:

Cultural Sensitivity: Movies that disrespect or portray cultural, religious, or traditional values in a manner inconsistent with UAE norms may undergo censorship.

Political Content: Political content that might be considered offensive or contrary to the interests of the UAE or its allies may lead to the suspension of films.

Nudity and Sexual Content: Excessive nudity, explicit sexual content, or scenes that violate the conservative norms of the UAE can result in film censorship.

Profanity and Obscenity: The use of strong language, profanity, or obscene content may lead to the prohibition or suspension of films in the UAE.

Drug Promotion: Films that glamorise or promote drug use or any form of substance abuse may face restrictions in the UAE.

Violence and Gore: Excessive violence or graphic scenes that contradict the country's standards for public viewing may lead to the suspension of films.

LGBTQ+ Themes: Movies featuring LGBTQ+ themes or content perceived as promoting non-heteronormative relationships could undergo censorship.

Anti-Islamic Content: Any content perceived as disrespectful or critical of Islam may lead to the banning or suspension of films in the UAE.

National Security Concerns: Films that raise concerns about national security or depict activities deemed threatening to the UAE can result in censorship.

For any enquiries or information, contact ask@tlr.ae or call us on +971 52 644 3004Follow The Law Reporters on WhatsApp Channels.

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