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Censorship in Lebanon – Authorities shorten “The One Man Village”

The film was celebrated at the Berlinale and was awarded prizes at international film festivals from Dubai to Monaco: “The One Man Village” by director Simon El Habre. In Lebanon, however, the film has fallen victim to censorship and has been shortened by five minutes.

The documentary “The One Man Village” tells the story of Semaan. The farmer is the only one who lives in the small mountain village of Ain al-Halazoun, which was almost completely destroyed in the 1980s like so many villages in the Chouf mountains. The population had previously fled from the attacks of the Israeli army and the various rival militias. After the war ended, national reconciliation was proclaimed in the 1990s and displaced Christians were allowed to return to their homes. But today Ain al-Halazoun is still a ghost village. Only Semaan El Habre lives here alone with his dogs, horses and cows.

In his film, which is as touching as it is humorous, Simon El Habre deals with the collective amnesia with which many Lebanese react to the events of the civil war, which claimed almost 100,000 lives. At the same time he deals with the question of whether a reconciliation ordered from above is possible in a country in which almost everyone fought against everyone at some point in the course of the decades.

Since today, the film has also been shown in Lebanon. However, the film has been shortened by 5 minutes by the Lebanese censors. In the censored section former villagers describe the circumstances of their escape from Ain al-Halazoun. Specifically, Milhem El Habre accuses the socialist party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt of firing at the village and driving the inhabitants into flight.

With these statements against one of the most influential Lebanese warlords and politicians Habre endangers the social security in Lebanon, the authorities decided. “al-Akhbar”, one of the major Lebanese daily newspapers, reports extensively on the affair on its front page. The newspaper feels reminded of conditions in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. At the same time the newspaper criticises Interior Minister Ziad Baroud for not having ensured that the film could be shown in full in Lebanon. The right of censorship lies with the “Internal Security” department, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior in Beirut.

When the film was first shown at the beginning of the year, the controversial passage was still allowed to be shown, director Simon El Habre told us on the sidelines of the Berlinale. But even then, the criticism of Jumblatt’s militia aroused the suspicion of the censorship authorities.

In multi-denominational Lebanon, disputes about books or films that allegedly hurt the feelings and sensitivities of individual religious groups are regularly ignited. Thus the Iranian comic film “Persepolis” was banned with respect to the Shiites as well as Dan Brown’s bestseller “Das Sakrileg”.

The case of the “One Man Village” is an example of how the Lebanese civil war has failed to be dealt with to this day. The events of the years 1975 to 1990 are swept under the carpet, responsibilities must not be openly named, unless one can point the finger at foreign actors who are generally held responsible for all the atrocities of the civil war – preferably Israel and Syria.

About Lebanon

Lebanon (official: Lebanese Republic; Arabic الجمهورية اللبنانية) is a state in the Near East on the Mediterranean. Lebanon borders Syria to the north and east and Israel along the Blue Line to the south. In the west it is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon is counted among the Mashreq countries and the Levant. The up to 3000 meter high Lebanon mountains are snow-covered in winter. The name of the country is derived from its white peaks, which goes back to the Semitic language root lbn (“white”).

Lebanon became independent on 26 November 1941 and has been a French Mandate since 1920. Because of its economic stability and political neutrality (1949-1969), Lebanon, with its strong western and French influences, was also referred to as the “Switzerland of the Orient” in the 1950s and 1960s. The capital Beirut was known as the “Paris of the Middle East”. The Syrian conflict had a negative impact on the security situation in Lebanon. Travellers to Lebanon are advised to exercise special caution and increased attention.

Climate

According to the differences in the landscape of Lebanon, the climate is also very different. The coast has a Mediterranean climate with dry, warm summers and humid, rainy winters. In the mountains there is a pronounced mountain climate, with the main precipitation falling in winter and then mainly in the form of snow.

At the border to Syria there is a dry steppe climate, which forms the transition to the desert climate of southern Syria and Jordan. In Beirut, daytime temperatures average 18°C in January and 30°C in July and August. In December and January there are an average of 11 rainy days in Beirut, while August generally remains completely dry.

Origin of the name

The country name means “white mountains”; the high mountain regions of the Lebanon mountains are covered with snow all year round.