A new government-funded movie about prostitution and homosexuality, in which a well-known actress takes on the role of a shrewd madam, has stirred controversy in the conservative Algerian society.
Algerian movie star Biyouna plays a whore called Madame Aldjeria (Algeria) in the movie, Delice Paloma. Paloma is the name of one of the prostitutes in the network, who Aldjeria uses to lure men. She is dubbed 'delice' (sweet).
In one of the scenes, Biyouna -- known for her benign roles in comedies -- appears wearing a dress with the colors of the Algerian flag. Critics accuse her of defaming Algeria.
The Algerian government reportedly paid 10 million dinars (almost 150,000 U.S. dollars) to fund the film.
But Abdel-Karim Omezian, a spokesman for the Film Division at the Ministry of Culture, told AlArabiya.net that the ministry never gave a permit to Biyouna or director Nadir Moknèche.
"The ministry will comment after watching the Arabic version," said Omezian, adding that the ministry only paid 3 million dinars (45,000 U.S. dollars) for the distribution, and not the production, of the film.
Audiences that flocked to a movie theatre in the center of the capital Algiers were surprised to know that the show was cancelled at the last minute.
This was allegedly because the Arabic version was not available, and "it was difficult to show it in French."
In a phone interview from Beirut, Biyouna defended the role, telling AlArabiya.net that the movie reflects reality in Algerian society:
"Lots of girls are forced into prostitution. It's time we break taboos."
Biyouna, known as a comedian who plays 'decent' roles, tried to commit suicide in 1997. She attributed that to poverty and lack of work. After that, she got many offers and shot to fame as a TV star.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).