Avoiding controversy: Film on Abottabad raid likely to face blackout in Pakistan

Distributors shy away from the Oscar-nominated Hollywood film based on Bin Laden hunt.

Sher Khan January 27, 2013
Distributors shy away from the Oscar-nominated Hollywood film based on Bin Laden hunt.


While it has not been officially banned yet, Zero Dark Thirty, the Oscar-nominated Hollywood flick based on the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, is unlikely to be screened in Pakistan.

Distributors consider the film, which features the May 2, 2011 US raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad complex as its climax, a “touchy issue” and say it is unlikely to get past the censor board.

A report by The Telegraph mentioned the general manager of marketing for Cinepax, Mohsin Yaseen, as saying that derogatory references to Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies meant any distributor would face awkward questions.

“When Zero Dark Thirty came out, we thought it best just to keep away from it … other distributors had agreed to do the same,” he was quoted by the British daily as saying.

“The film Django Unchained was not released in many parts of the US because it was deemed unsuitable for audiences … it’s the same thing here,” Yaseen explained, while talking to The Express Tribune. He maintained it was unlikely the censor board would allow the film to be screened, adding that distributors have generally avoided films that include any references to Islam and religion.

“Distributors have adopted this approach because whatever success we have had in creating a resurgence of cinema could be undone,” he said.

The approach, Yaseen explained, was adopted after his company unsuccessfully tried to show the Bollywood comedy Tere Bin Laden.  The film – which revolved around a Pakistani news reporter, played by local artist Ali Zafar, who makes a fake video of Bin Laden – was banned by the censor board. The board also served distributors a stern warning to stay away from films of a similar nature.

According to well-known distributor and the managing director of Atrium Cinemas, Nadeem Mandviwalla, however, the media has “jumped the gun” with regards to Zero Dark Thirty. He said the film had not been banned but added that distributors had generally shown little interest in screening it.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2013.


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