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Gaza govt gives okay to re-open cinemas

Feb. 1, 2011 3:27 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 6, 2011 6:34 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Amid rumors that a new movie theater could open soon in the Gaza Strip, officials at the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Culture announced Tuesday that the move would be welcomed.

"We believe that art is a basic element of every society, and we encourage art festivals, special film festivals, and have no objection to the re-opening of Gaza's cinemas," Gaza's Culture Minister Osama Al-Issawi said.

The cinemas, however, would be monitored by the ministry to ensure that they "maintain the Palestinian customs, morals and traditions," he added.

The last movie theater in Gaza City closed in 1987 when the First Intifada broke out. West Bank theaters closed down during the same period, but the cities of Nablus and Jenin made international headlines in 2010 when they both opened theaters playing a selection of popular Arabic, Persian and Hollywood films.

Minister Al-Issawi told Ma'an, however, that his office had not received any requests for permission to open such a venue.

"I hope the day will come when we have such a great production of Palestinian films and documentaries that we can fill the cinema screens," he said, lamenting government inaction in promotion of the arts "on account of more urgent priorities."

The Gaza government backed a two-hour feature film in 2009, written by party official Mahmoud Az-Zahar. The film followed the life and death of Emad Akel, the commander of Hamas movement's armed wing the Al-Qassam Brigades, who was killed by Israeli forces in 1993.

"The door is open to all who wish to reactivate this essential cultural element," Al-Issawi said, promising straightforward regulations but insisting that theaters be equipped with "all the necessary safety and security specifications."

The official said that films set for screening would have to be monitored by a panel from the Ministry of Culture.

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