Play it, Sam: 'Casablanca' finally hits Qatar big screen



DOHA, QATAR, David Harding- You must remember this... except if you are in Qatar which is set to publicly screen the classic Hollywood movie "Casablanca" for the first time later this month.
Time may have gone by since the film's release -- 73 years to be precise -- but the iconic World War II love story starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will belatedly receive its Qatar premiere on February 28.
It will be shown as part of a season organised by the Doha Film Institute (DFI) celebrating Academy Award winning movies, to coincide with this year's Oscars ceremony.



The film is one of the most celebrated of all time and won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1944 as well as Best Screenplay.
The movie has also become famous for its theme song, "As Time Goes By", and memorable lines including "Here's looking at you, kid" and "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine".
But despite being considered one of the greatest movies ever made, and with Qatar's cinema-going audience largely made up of expatriates, the film has somehow managed to avoid being shown in the Gulf country.
In this case though it has nothing to with the film censor, which has come under criticism from audiences in recent times.
Last year, the biblically inspired movie "Noah", starring Russell Crowe, was banned from Qatar's cinemas as it was said to contradict the teachings of Islam.
Also in 2014, moviegoers complained after a third of Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" was cut when shown in Qatari cinemas, due to foul language and explicit content.
- 'As powerful today' -
Bad language was never going to be a problem for "Casablanca" but it appears that no one knows why the film has never been shown, despite other classics making it to the big screen in Qatar.
The DFI believes it may never have been shown as cinemas in the Gulf are more intent on showing modern Hollywood blockbusters.
Although Qatar does not have an extensive film history, foreign movies have been shown in the country since 1970.
The DFI has been running since 2010 and also stages the annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival, which shows international and Arab films.
"It is part of our role as a film institute to provide access to significant films from the cinematic canon," said Chadi Zeneddine, Programmer and Resident Filmmaker of the DFI, told AFP.
"Casablanca is an iconic Hollywood classic that is as powerful today as when it was released."
Film scholar and author Noah Isenberg, who teaches seminars on "Casablanca" in New York and is writing a book to coincide with the movie's 75th anniversary, said it was "extraordinary" the movie had not been shown before.
"I don't know specifically of countries where the film has not been shown but it is rather surprising that Qatar hasn't screened it," he said.
Screening of the movie comes at a time when Qatar is asserting itself as a cultural hub of the Middle East. Doha's Museum of Islamic Art houses an extensive collection and there is also an Arab Museum of modern and contemporary art.
The Qatar Museums Authority is one of the biggest players in the modern art scene and earlier this month Qatari buyers were rumoured to have bought a painting by the French artist Paul Gauguin for $300 million (263 million euros), the most expensive work ever sold.
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Friday, February 13th 2015
David Harding
           


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