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Iranian Film ‘Muhammad: The Messenger of God’ Garners Big Box Office, Controversy

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the local film industry has not been known for trying to make blockbusters. But there is one exception, “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” an epic directed by Majid Majidi, the first Iranian to be nominated for a foreign-language Oscar (1997’s “Children of Heaven”).

An almost three-hour reconstruction of the childhood of the prophet Muhammad through age 12, “Messenger of God” is considered to be Iran’s most expensive movie, at an estimated $40 million, and one intended for release around the world.

“Muhammad” reportedly grossed more than 70 billion rials (roughly $2 million) in its first two weeks, after opening in late August on more than half of Iran’s 330 screens. That’s a nice haul, if it’s accurate.

The film has met with controversy outside Iran, where some Sunni Muslims believe that any representation of the prophet is blasphemous. (For Iran’s predominantly Shiite community, that’s less of an issue.)

In September, a Sunni group in India issued a fatwa against Majidi and Indian composer A.R. Rahman, who scored the film. Other Sunni groups have called for a ban.

Nevertheless, Iran has submitted the film in the foreign-language Oscar race.

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