Plans to air controversial film 'The Kite' sparks protests by Druze community

Beirut, Lebanon - A love story between an Israeli soldier and a young Lebanese Druze woman sparked controversy when the Lebanese television station Al-Jadeed decided to air it on Tuesday. The disagreement did not have political motives but rather religious and sectarian reasons.

The 80-minute film “The Kite,” or “Tayyara Min Warak” in Arabic, was due to be broadcast at 9:30 pm on Al-Jadeed but it was postponed when protesters from the Druze sect called the station in anger and surrounded the house of New TV chairman Tahseen Khayat in Beirut’s Aramoun suburb.

The protesters claimed the movie distorted the image of the Druze sect in Lebanon and demanded that it be stopped from going on the air. The television station claimed demonstrators were violent and that they threatened to burn down Khayat’s house. It added that many were prepared to mobilize to attack Al-Jadeed’s headquarters in the Beirut neighborhood of Wata al-Msaytbeh.

Deputy news desk director at Al-Jadeed Karma Khayat said a previous agreement between the station and Druze leaders had said the movie could be broadcast after deleting some scenes.

“This agreement was violated due to the demands of radical and greatly conservative people,” she added.

The movie was directed by the late Lebanese director Randa Shahal and appeared in 2003 in Lebanese movie theatres. It won the silver award at the Venice film festival in 2003 and was shown several times on Lebanese and international television stations. It is also available at any video store.

The story is that of a young Lebanese woman, Lamia, living in the Druze area of the Golan Heights in a Lebanese village on the Israeli border. Her family arranged for her to marry a Lebanese man on the Israeli side of the village, which was divided after the Israeli occupation. However Lamia falls in love with a young Lebanese man who joined the Israeli forces.

The movie includes many scenes describing the Druze village and the Druze society, especially when it comes to wedding arrangements and to the everyday life of women.

“Freedom of the media is essential but it should not violate the freedom of others. It should not distort the proud image of some Lebanese factions because this image is a crucial part of Lebanon’s image,” said the letter addressed by Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naeem Hassan to the television station.

Leading Druze chiefs MP Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, and MP Talal Arslan, head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, met with Khayat in a bid to contain the situation.

They condemned the violent reaction shown by part of the Druze community and issued a joint statement askeing that the airing of the movie be held off for a few days until an agreement could be reached. The station agreed to the requests and delayed airing the film until “an undetermined date.”

The two MPs also stressed their support for freedom of the media and asked the station to understand the sensitive situation at hand. “Logic and reason should prevail at all times without exception,” they added.

Sources speaking for the protesters told the As-Safir newspaper in an article published on Wednesday that opposition to the movie was not unfair and that the Druze sect did not consider itself above the law.