It’s been a week for bannings. First there was the furore about Geraldine Bedell’s book, The Gulf Between Us, apparently being banned from the inaugural Dubai Literary Festival except that it turns out that it wasn’t really banned after all. In the meantime, literary lioness Margaret Atwood had resigned from the festival in protest only to find herself, as she puts it in her article in The Guardian, with ‘this dog’s breakfast all over my face’: http://tinyurl.com/ca9k8y
We now discover that in another, very different kingdom the censor has been at work only this time it’s for real. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has been banned in Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan country often referred to as the last Shangri-La. The only two other films to have received this dubious honour, according to Wikipedia, are The Life of Brian in 1979 (banned due to religious content) and Cannibal Holicaust in 1980 (due to animal cruelty). Ironically, if you click the link through to the Atwood article on the Guardian website you will see a banner ad for Benjamin Button.
I based the fictional Kingdom in the Kumari series partly on Bhutan and carried out some extensive research on the country and its history. Suffice to say that, as with other idylls such as the Maldives, all is not as it seems. Kumari was a goddess in a gilded cage and this is still very much the case in a country where everything is done ostensibly in the name of Gross National Happiness. I would argue that Dubai is not so different, ban or no ban. The gloss of its facade masks views and attitudes that veer towards the repressive. Censorship is never acceptable. And it does nothing to engender happiness.