West Side Story reportedly banned in multiple Gulf countries because of trans character

The film has allegedly been banned in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

Film still of West Side Story characters including trans character Anybodys who has led to the film being banned in multiple countries.
Image: Twitter: @rameshlaus

The 2021 film remake of West Side Story has reportedly been banned in multiple countries throughout the Gulf region. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did not grant a release certificate for the film, with unnamed sources stating the decision was made in response to a transgender character in the film played by non-binary actor Iris Menas.

It is being reported that the film will also not release in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman after Walt Disney and 20th Century Studios refused to cut parts of the film as the aforementioned countries had requested.

The live-action film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical was due to release in Saudi Arabia on December 9, just before its North American release on December 10. West Side Story is not the first film to be banned by the country because of its LGBTQ+ content, with Eternals also suffering a similar fate earlier this year. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar blocked the Marvel movie after Disney refused to cut the studio’s first openly gay couple sharing an on-screen kiss.

The trans character in West Side Story, Anybodys, plays a minor role in the film and is reportedly loosely based on Balthasar from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Walt Disney and 20th Century Studios are yet to comment on the controversy but it appears that there will be no compromise made with the countries in question.

West Side Story held its world premiere on November 29 in New York, with Sondheim sadly passing away just days beforehand. The film also enjoyed a preview screening in the Light House Cinema in Dublin on Monday, December 6, and is due to have its full Irish release starting on December 10.

Reviews have already been pouring in, with Variety’s Brent Lang calling it “bold and stirring”, and with others echoing this praise, declaring it “phenomenal,” “worth the wait,” and “incredible”.

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