Iran’s Film About The Prophet Muhammed Divides The Muslim World

The film aims to portray a positive image of Islam. But irony strikes the Muslim world.

majid majidi muhammed

Iranian director, Majid Majidi’s latest project Muhammed (2015) is a trilogy about the life of the Islamic prophet. The first part of the multi-million dollar biopic, which does not show the face of Prophet Muhammed, and is set to be screened at the Fajr Film Festival in Iran.

Mohammad, Messenger of God tells the story of the prophet’s life from his birth until age 12. The festival coincides with the 36th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution and is making its debut just weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. 

An Interesting Read: I am Charlie vs. I am not Charlie

While the pre-production started in 2007, Majidi officially announced the project in 2011 calling it his "most ambitious and expensive film project.”  He had consulted with both Shia and Sunni (two prominent factions of Islam) scholars and has the backing of the Iranian government on this film.

This is the second big-budget feature made about the prophet, the first one being Moustapha Akkad’s 1976 The Message, starring Anthony Quinn.

Majid criticized that film, stating that it failed to do justice to Muhammed’s life as it showed “only jihad and war” and that “the image of Islam in that film is the image of a sword.”

According to The Washington Post, the total cost of Muhammed is estimated to be $30 million. The film was shot under the radar, mostly, with the actors interacting with Majid’s assistants and mini-cities being built on location.

In order to avoid history repeating itself, Majid involved the Italian cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, who makes use of shadows and light to avoid showing the prophet’s face.

"This film is a step forward for Muslim cinema," said Majid last year. "We're going to help open your eyes to what Islam really is all about. We have a lot of positive things to share with the world, provided that the West is ready for such a dialogue. I think that Iran can have something strong to say through its arts and culture."

In the past, where portrayals of the Prophet Muhammed have caused massive ripples in the Muslim world, the release of this film from an Islamic nation – Iran, no less– is bound to raise the eyebrows of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

iran film muhammed

It’s been reported that Egypt, a Sunni-authority nation, has requested Iran to not show the film, while Qatar has announced a rival-film of the same topic with a budget of $1 billion along with Lord of the Rings producer, Barrie Osborne.

A thread on Reddit also highlights the concern this film will bring about for radicals, and also touches upon the notion that the film is “a good step forward in freedom of speech for the region.”

Given that Iran has in the past come out with impressive films, the film is likely to wow its viewers even apolitically. The film is scheduled to be released in English, Arabic and Persian in March 2015.

Dig Deeper:  What Would Muhammad Do?