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‘Schindler’s List’ Faces Censor and Censure by Islamic Countries

April 11, 1994
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The Academy Award-winning film "Schindler’s List" will not be changed in any way despite pressures by Islamic countries.

"We will not cut `Schindler’s List’ for any reason. On other movies we’ve made requested cuts, but we won’t with this," Tom Pollock, chairman of the MCA Motion Picture Group, told the Hollywood Reporter.

MCA includes Universal Pictures, which released the movie by Steven Spielberg.

In Washington, the State Department expressed regret that some foreign governments want to prevent the showing of the movie.

"The film movingly portrays, in a way that is accessible to all cultures, the 20th century’s most horrible catastrophe, and it shows that even in the midst of genocide, one individual can make a difference," the department spokesman said.

"The department believes that this film should be available to people worldwide, and that the most effective way to avoid the recurrence of genocidal tragedy is to ensure that past acts of genocide are never forgotten," he said.

Universal Pictures said it will not screen the picture in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as India, which has a large Muslim minority.

In other countries, the fate of the picture is less clear. Malaysia has reversed its original ban, invoked partly because of their claim that the film was too sympathetic to the Jews and too critical of the Germans. However, authorities still want seven cuts to eliminate violence and nudity.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the country’s prime minister, Mahatzhir Mohamaad, said he will not be bullied into foregoing his demands.

"We run the country, Steven Spielberg doesn’t," Mohamaad said.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic nation, has scheduled the opening of "Schindler’s List" for this month, although the country’s censor has not made a final decision about the film. Malaysia is reported to be putting pressure on Indonesia to ban the movie.

In the Philippines, the censor demanded elimination of all sex and nudity, but President Fidel Ramos reversed the ban. The picture is said to be doing well in the nation’s movie theaters. Universal, and its overseas distribution arm United International Pictures, decided that the movie will not open in Lebanon after authorities banned, without stating a reason, advertisements in theaters.

Egyptian censorship officials are still reviewing the movie, the Hollywood Reporter said in its weekend edition. In Turkey, the most liberal Muslim nation, "Schindler’s List" has been shown without incident.

Currently, Universal plans to appeal Scandinavian countries’ decision to ban viewers under 15 or 16.

Both Pollock and Spielberg have expressed their surprise at hostility to the film by Islamic nations, noting that "Schindler’s List" was implicitly drawing a parallel to the fate of the Muslim population in Bosnia. "The Bosnian Muslims have used this movie as an appeal to the West for aid in helping a Muslim movement against the ethnic cleansing by the Serbs," said Pollock. "The people who are getting exterminated are Muslims."

So far, "Schindler’s List" has brought in more than $75 million in the United States and $100 million in all other countries. Spielberg had expected to lose money on the film, which cost $23 million to make.

Marvin Levy, spokesman for Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, said in a phone interview that all profits from the movie will be donated to "Holocaust causes."

A foundation will be established, he said, to document the remembrances of the 350,000 living Holocaust survivors.

The ripple effect from the success of "Schindler’s List" has led to the revival of the television movie "Holocaust." When the eight-hour mini-series was first broadcast in 1978, the story of two fictional German families – one Jewish and the other headed by a rising star in the Nazi party – was seen by some 400 million TV viewers around the world. That movie was credited with prompting the German legislature to repeal the statue of limitations on prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

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