DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—About 45 minutes have been cut from the nearly 3-hour high-finance extravaganza “The Wolf of Wall Street” for Dubai audiences, or a quarter of the film, leaving many viewers disappointed and confused about the sequence of events.
The cuts come as the movie has drawn criticism even from film critics in more liberal countries for its portrayal of drugs, sex and money. Detractors say the film glorifies unchecked greed, includes full nudity and is loaded with a reported record for F- bombs in a movie—more than 500.
Moviegoers said all profanities were bleeped out from the Martin Scorsese movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. One woman wrote on the Facebook page for Reel Cinemas, which operates two theatres in Dubai, that she and her friend walked out after about 40 minutes because they felt the movie was simply incoherent and unwatchable.
It is standard policy across most of the Middle East for governments to preview and censor uncut versions of movies, although the extent of the censoring may differ. Censors edit out even kissing scenes in local theatres and on certain Arab satellite television channels.
Juma al-Leem, director of media content at the National Media Center, said censors in the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, typically cut out scenes or language deemed blasphemous or harmful to national security, along with excessive nudity. However, al-Leem told the Associated Press on Tuesday that in this case the regional distributor, Gulf Film based in Dubai, was responsible for the heavy edits.
“We felt that the editing was done abroad and we will not accept editing done abroad,” he said. “We want to see the whole film first and decide.”
Gulf Film, which distributes Paramount and Universal titles in Dubai and other Gulf Arab countries, and its parent company Qatar Media Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Qatar Media Services is wholly owned by the government of Qatar.
Al-Leem said that while U.A.E. censorship officials did approve the movie after Gulf Film’s edits, they felt the cuts were excessive because audiences “should feel the soul of the film.” He said Gulf Film should have shown U.A.E. censors the uncut movie rather than making one sanitized version for the entire region. Dubai, which hosts an annual international film festival, has a reputation for being much less conservative than countries like Saudi Arabia, where traditional movie theatres are banned.
“There are some scenes we accept that other Gulf countries may cut,” al-Leem said.
The movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, is adapted from Jordan Belfort’s memoir about his heady rise from a penny stock trader to a wealthy stock swindler. The film has turned into the most debated of an award season otherwise lacking much controversy. Scorsese and DiCaprio in recent days have defended their film as a thought-provoking portrait of decadence run amok.
In a recent interview with the AP, DiCaprio said he and Scorsese would look at each other during filming and ask if they were going too far. Rarely was the answer “yes.”
In October, moviegoers in Dubai saw the screen turn black after a character was heard cursing in Arabic in Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest action flick, Escape Plan. Authorities quickly censored the profane words out of the movie, and the revised version was back in theatres within hours.