Bruno in spotlight of film censors' board

The UAE's censors are ready to review the film Bruno - and decide whether local audiences get to see it at all.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 29:  Actor Sacha Baron Cohen speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of the Australian premiere of 'Bruno: The Movie' on Macquarie Street on June 29, 2009 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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Bruno, the No 1 film in the US, inspired "shock, admiration, disgust, disbelief and appalled incredulity" among critics - and those were the positive reviews. Now the UAE's censors are ready to review the film themselves - and decide whether local audiences get to see it at all. That means that if the film is released in the Emirates - it made its debut elsewhere last weekend - it will probably face long delays.

The film topped the US box office last weekend, raking in US$30.4 million (Dh112m). It stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a flamboyant reporter for Austrian Gay TV and contains bad language and nudity. Dubai-based Gulf Film, the largest movie exhibitor in the region, said it would distribute the comedy, if it was approved. Gulf Film's director of group operations, Jean Ramia, said the satire would probably not arrive in the UAE until late September at the earliest.

"If it's not going to be released in the next two weeks, then maybe during Eid, which is the best period for a blockbuster movie like this," Mr Ramia said. "There's nothing else to stop us from releasing it other than it passing through censorship." The National Media Council, which previews content for movies before they open in the UAE, expects to view the prints for Bruno in the coming days. Western critics who enjoyed the film also warned uninitiated viewers that Bruno plays on bad taste and contains lewd language as well as graphic nudity.

In a favourable review, the critic Roger Ebert wrote: "The needle on my internal Laugh Meter went haywire, bouncing among hilarity, appreciation, shock, admiration, disgust, disbelief and appalled incredulity." Juma Alleem, the director of the NMC's censorship department in Dubai, said he was aware of the film's racy content but acknowledged that there was an audience for such comedy. "We know about the story and we have no objection of this film if it's about the gay [community] or not, but we want to see the film and subject first," Mr Alleem said. "Some people are interested in this kind of film - comedy with some scenes like this. From our side, we have no idea about it until we see it."

He noted that other potentially sensitive films had been screened and approved, with some editing. Ray Chacra, the managing director of the Dubai-based film distributor Shooting Stars, agreed. "Usually, the censorship board are quite flexible. They just have to see the content." Bruno follows the commercial success of the 2006 mockumentary Borat, which also starred Baron Cohen. It was banned in the UAE.