Turkey bans ‘Nymphomaniac’ for graphic sex

Such prominent artists as filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan have condemned the ban.(Photo by Christian Geisnaes)

ANKARA: Turkish authorities have banned Danish director Lars Von Trier’s controversial movie epic “Nymphomaniac” from commercial theaters for its extensive nudity and no-holds-barred sex scenes.

“Nymphomaniac” premiered to cheers at the Berlin International Film Festival last month. The film tells the story of a woman’s sexual awakening from childhood to age 50. It stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, alongside Stellan Skarsgard and Shia LaBeouf.

The first part of this two-part work was planned to be screened in Turkey on March 14, while part two was scheduled for March 21. The movie was expected to be accompanied with a warning against children under age 18 watching it.

Turkey’s cinema board – which includes representatives from the culture, interior and education ministries – banned the film outright Monday, with a majority vote of six to two.

Cem Erkul, Turkey’s general director of cinema, said the board, which also included a psychologist and a sociologist, watched the film carefully to see if it met the country’s standards.

“The board decided to ban the commercial circulation of the movie at theaters because of its explicit sexual scenes,” Erkul said.

“This film is in the porn category ... It also depicts extreme violence against women.”

The official said criticism over the ban in social media and among artists was normal in a democratic country and made it clear that Turkey was not entirely barring the film, which he said would screen at the Istanbul International Film Festival in April.

Festival spokesmen disclosed the IIFF added Von Trier’s film to its program after the state banned its projection in commercial cinemas.

Erkul said it would not be appropriate to display the film at Turkey’s theaters, which are mostly at shopping centers, and that Turkey lacked special theaters to screen such films.

Yamac Okur, a dissenting member of the board, said the decision was tantamount to, in his words, censorship. “Barring any cinema movie from commercial screening is unacceptable,” he wrote on Twitter Monday. “It could have been displayed by age rating. Otherwise, it is censorship.”

In January, EU member Romania said it had lifted its own ban on the movie and fired the official responsible for barring it following an uproar by artists and the culture minister.

Critics accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey’s political scene for 11 years, of changing from being a reformer to a conservative, fueling an old debate over his alleged hidden agenda to Islamize the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular nation.

Prominent Turkish artists, however, denounced the move.

“I strongly condemn the ban on the film ‘Nymphomaniac,’” renowned Turkish art house director Nuri Bilge Ceylan wrote on Twitter, “while there is in fact a policy in place on age limit.”

Ceylan won Cannes’ Best Director Prize for his searing family drama “Three Monkeys” in 2008.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 05, 2014, on page 16.




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