The daughter of a Lebanese politician has caused a stir after she played a prostitute and appeared nude in a movie, which was banned only four days after it premiered.
The censorship division at the Lebanese General Security Authority did not give reasons for banning "Help" but the outraged producer Bacchus Elwan threatened to sue the censor, saying the film had not broken any laws.
"Help" tells the story of Ali, a teenager who lives in a van in a car junkyard. He meets Thoraya, a prostitute who lives with her gay friend, Janou. There is also a subplot of a taxi driver who meets his rich look-alike.
Actress Joanna Andraus, who is the daughter of Antoine Andraus, member of Lebanon's ruling March 14 Alliance, admitted that the scenes were daring, but stressed that they serve the purpose of the movie.
"I have no problem with nudity on screen," she told AlArabiya.net. "It is art like paintings of nude women."
Joanna added that the movie sheds light on a problem that most societies, especially Lebanon, go through. She refused to say more about her role.
Elwan objected critics' statements that the movie was "insolent" and full of nudity, group sex and cuss words with no dialogue at.
"The movie is not insolent," he argued. "It is 'daring.' It addresses the problems of homeless teenagers who end up as sexual delinquents or criminals and draws the attention to the necessity of helping them."
The movie stirred controversy in Lebanon's political scene as some tried to link the ban to Joanna's father, an MP, an allegation she strongly denied.
"My father has nothing to do with that, and he never interferes in my work," she said.
Joanna, a former fashion model, pointed out that she was no stranger to raunchy outfits and said her father has never had any objections in the past.
The movie was given screening permission last year but under the "adults only" category. But since then the officer in charge of censorship has changed.
Elwan said the ban should not be linked to political disputes in Lebanon.
"The movie was banned because the officer in charge of censorship was replaced and he didn't like it," he told AlArabiya.net. "He hasn't seen the movie, though."
"The law hasn't changed since we got the screening permission last year."
This was made clear in the complaint filed to the General Security Chief, protesting the ban of the movie.
The $220,000 movie is written and directed by Mark Abi Rashid and was screened for journalists on Feb. 12.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)