On, Thursday, December 9th, the new version of the musical West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, opened in all theaters. The story is an adaptation of the Broadway musical by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, which is a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Spielberg's film stars American Ansel Elgort and Colombian-American Rachel Zegler, who play Tony and Maria.
This version, unlike the first one that was brought to the screens directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, is more respectful to the Latinos that play a major role in the story.
That is why Spielberg himself requested that the Hispanic dialogue be left without subtitles in the original version of the film.
"Spanish is the second language of the United States so I thought it would have been disrespectful to subtitle it, because it has to coexist with English and without any support," he said in an interview with EFE.
Spielberg explained that his objective during the screenings is that Spanish and English-speaking spectators will congregate and "hear laughter from groups that understand certain things in Spanish."
In the first version that was brought to the screen, the musical tells the story of the Puerto Rican experience in New York, but barely had Puerto Rican performers in the cast. It was something that Spielberg wanted to amend with his version.
"It's the first production of West Side Story to feature an all-Latino cast to bring the 'Sharks' to life. It was something that needed to be corrected," the director commented.
Banned in Saudi Arabia
Despite the success of the film since its release in the United States, it will not be shown in theaters in most of the countries in the Middle East because the cast includes a non-binary person, Iris Menas.
This is not the first time that a film has been banned in these countries because of the presence of an LGTBQ+ character. Some recent examples have been Eternals and Bohemian Rhapsody.
In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the film did not pass censorship and will not be allowed to be screened. In other countries, such as Qatar, although the film could be released, several scenes had to be cut, and Disney did not agree to the changes, and preferred not to show the film in full.