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The Sharks and the Jets won’t be facing off in the Gulf.
In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — considered the strictest in terms of censorship — the film wasn’t granted a release certificate. In the remaining countries, censors requested cuts that Disney refused to make. The film had been due for release on Dec. 9 and was on all major cinema websites.
While the reasoning is unconfirmed, regional sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the decision was due to the character Anybodys, written as transgender in the new adaptation and played by nonbinary actress Iris Menas. With homosexuality officially illegal across the Gulf, films that feature any LGBTQ references or issues often fall foul of the censors.
West Side Story follows hot on the heels of Disney’s Eternals, which was yanked from release across the region last month over the inclusion of the MCU’s first gay superhero, Phastos (played by Brian Tyree Henry), in particular a scene in which he shares a kiss with his onscreen husband, Ben (Haaz Sleiman).
Like West Side Story, censors made cut requests that Disney refused. The film did eventually land in cinemas in the UAE with Disney having removed all intimate scenes.
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