The head of Egypt’s censorship board has resigned in protest at a decision to pull Lebanese star Haifa Wehbe’s latest movie, which has been criticised for scenes deemed sexually provocative.
On Wednesday evening, prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab ordered “Halawet Rooh” (Beauty of the Soul) not to be screened until the censorship board reviews it again.
Revealing clothes worn by the pop and film star in the movie, sexually explicit movements and scenes featuring a young boy fascinated by her have stirred harsh criticism.
The censorship board head, film-maker Ahmed Awad, announced his resignation late Friday on the privately owned television channel CBC Two, saying he stood by his decision to allow the film to be shown.
The Egyptian-made movie, said to have been inspired by Monica Bellucci’s 2000 hit “Malena”, was released nationwide on April 3 for adults only audiences.
“I took the decision to allow the movie: I stand by it and I bear complete responsibility,” Awad said.
“The state has another opinion — they cancelled our decision and withdrew the production”, he added, saying he was not consulted.
“Like any other self-respecting official, I presented my resignation,” he added.
The plot revolves around Rooh, played by Wehbe, who ignites passions among men in her neighbourhood when her husband is away.
Independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm lashed out at the movie in a review headlined: “Halawet Rooh: how to produce an Egyptian porn movie.”
And Egypt’s National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government body, said the film posed “a moral danger” which could impact “public morals negatively”.
It praised Mahlab’s order as “responsible and wise”.
One media commentator saw possible sinister connotations in the ban.
“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.