The National Media Council (NMC), the UAE body tasked with approving films in the UAE, has weighed in on the uproar caused by Hollywood film The Wolf of Wall Street in the UAE. Audiences of the Martin Scorsese film, which released on Thursday, have complained that scenes were haphazardly chopped and dialogues muted, making most of it incomprehensible.
The film is based on the life of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who was convicted of fraud crimes in the ’90s. Its run time, according to the Internet Movie Database imdb.com, is 180 minutes. Cinemas in the UAE, however, list it at 135 minutes.
Juma Obaid Al Leem, director of the Media Content Tracking Department at the NMC told tabloid! the cuts were made even before it came under their review.
“We didn’t touch the film. The distributor already made the cut [when it came to us]. When we asked the distributors, they said they cut all those scenes and words, because they want to distribute the film in GCC,” he said.
Al Leem added that, following complaints from moviegoers, the NMC has instructed distributors to leave the editing to them.
“[We have told them] next time, don’t touch the film. We will make the cuts. We will decide. Maybe some scenes will be accepted. Don’t make any cut outside till they bring the full film and we will decide about the film,” he said. “We told them very clearly.”
Gulf Film, the film’s distributor in the GCC, has not responded to requests for comment.
The Wolf of Wall Street stars Leonardo DiCaprio who won a Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical on Sunday night. The film focuses on Belfort’s hedonistic lifestyle and the thrill of self-indulgence, which has led some critics in the US to accuse director Scorsese of glorifying greed. A charge the Oscar-winning director of films such as The Departed (2006) and Goodfellas (1990), has refuted.
The film is believed to contain more than 506 F-words and derivatives of it, the most ever in a Hollywood film. It is rated 15+ in the UAE.
Reel Cinemas at The Dubai Mall posted disclaimers outside its box office on Thursday: “The Wolf of Wall Street contains muted words, and some scenes have been removed as they were not considered suitable. Reel Cinemas has no control on the censorship and we apologise for an inconveniences caused,” it said.
Still, many were disappointed.
“It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa with sunglasses on. There are so many unorthodox cuts that you are never really sure what’s happening,” said Mohammad Al Mousa, 22, a filmmaking student at the American University in Dubai. “It felt disruptive. I’d be so disappointed if someone disrupted the integrity of my film like that.”
Jilenar Mohammad, 22, a student at Canadian University in Dubai, said she was so disappointed she went home to download the full version of the film and watched it again.
“It was a huge difference,” she said. “They should have just put a higher rating and let the movie show as it is. A few cuts we can understand but I was completely lost when I saw it at the cinema.”
Vignesh B, a Dubai-based engineer, agreed.
“Distributors should give the film an R or 18+ rating and strictly enforce it. Just cutting it haphazardly makes no sense. I couldn’t relate between the scenes and so many sentences were muted.”
But not everyone is up-in-arms.
Mohammad Qasim, a businessman based in Dubai, says the film’s story is an important lesson that should reach a wide audience, without scenes of debauchery.
“Those scenes are not necessary to get an idea of how one man’s greed led to his downfall. We don’t need to see it. If people want to get an idea with all its detail, I suggest they read the book,” says the 28-year-old who admits he hasn’t seen the film, but is planning to.
Interestingly, Vox Cinemas in the UAE has listed The Wolf of Wall Street as the most watched film in the country over the weekend.
But Faisal Hashmi, a filmmaker based in Sharjah, says it would have been wise for distributors not to release the film at all than release it in such a state.
“If they clearly explained the reasons why the film has been pulled, I think everyone would understand. And it wouldn’t have been the first time,” he says. “But I guess they’ve put money into this and want to put it out. So what you get is a film which has almost 45 minutes chopped off.
Hashmi, 23, decided not to see the film at the cinema after he saw the disclaimer, and downloaded it online instead.
“It’s a great film but it’s possible that a lot of people would end up not liking it at all because of the cuts.”