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Banned film attracts Lebanese viewers

Screenshort from "Waltz with Bashir" -- an animated film about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: If you're a film watcher, you might remember the latest Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film, Waltz with Bashir. It's an animated Israeli movie about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Like all Israeli products, the movie is banned in Lebanon. But as Ben Gilbert reports from Beirut, the film is getting a big audience there.


Ben Gilbert: About 150 people sit on couches and barstools at this art gallery in Beirut. They're watching the last moments of the film Waltz with Bashir. The screening is illegal, but the police haven't come.

Many say they came to see the film out of curiosity, others because they oppose censorship.

Mike: Because when they forbid you to see something, you just want to see it, to have point of view of what's happening in the world.

That's Mike, a young Lebanese who didn't want to use his full name for fear of being questioned by the police. Mike's friend, Lama Matta, says the film should be banned.

Waltz with Bashir focuses on the massacre of hundreds of civilians at a Palestinian refugee camp during Israel's occupation of Beirut in 1982. Lebanese Christian militiamen allied with Israel carried out the massacre as Israeli troops looked on. Matta says the killings are still a sensitive subject here.

Matta: We have enough problems already, Lebanon. So with putting this film, we are pushing people to hate each other again and again. And to reopen a door, a door that is closing a bit.

The organizer, Ziad, says the decision to screen Waltz with Bashir was about business. He knew the film would attract a lot of attention. That's why he chose it to kick off his weekly screening of art house films.

Ziad: We needed a very big movie to start the cycle. So it wasn't a very innocent choice.

Ziad downloaded Waltz with Bashir from the Internet. But pirated DVD copies are available all over Beirut.

This is Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut and the site of the massacre in the film. Ramez Housari's black market DVD shop sells a pirated copy of Waltz with Bashir for about $1.30.

Ramez Housari (voice of interpreter): People will try to find this film at Virgin Records or other big stores but won't find it there. So they come here to buy it.

Housari says he lost three uncles in the massacre here. Still, he says people should be able to see the film. He says the camp's popular committee, kind of a city council, may even show it at the next anniversary of the massacre.

In Beirut, I'm Ben Gilbert for Marketplace.

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