Iran’s ‘Muhammad’ Sparks Ire in Sunni Muslim World But Scores at Box Office

Origin tale of the prophet Muhammad likely to be Iran's candidate for foreign Oscar consideration

Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in roughly half of Iran’s cinemas.

The partly government-financed “Muhammad,” which cost some $40 million and is considered the Islamic Republic’s most expensive film, is playing on more than 140 of Iran’s 320 screens and in many cultural centres in remote cities across the country after opening the Montreal Film Festival on August 27.

Box office receipts for “Muhammad” have hit 30 billion Iranian Rials, roughly $1 million, in two weeks, according to the government-controlled Tehran Times. If that figure is accurate, it’s a nice haul.

The incendiary issue that Muslims are not allowed to depict God in images certainly caused concern in Iran during the seven year gestation of the religious blockbuster, which depicts the future prophet from birth through the age of twelve.

Variety critic Alissa Simon in her review of “Muhammad” wrote that “Majidi respects Islamic convention by never showing Muhammad’s face and shooting him mostly from the back.” Simon also reported that at a Montreal presser Majidi explained that with Storaro they customised a Steadicam especially to show the prophet’s point of view.

Pic’s score is by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, winner of two Oscars for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

A Sunni Muslim group called the Raza Academy recently issued a fatwa against Majidi and Rahman and asked the Indian government to ban “Muhammad.” A fatwa is an Islamic legal opinion and is not tantamount to a death threat per se.

The Gran Mufti of Saudi Arabia, also a Sunni, who is the country’s most influential religious and legal authority, has also reportedly stated that the film displays “enmity toward Islam” and should be banned.  Neither are likely to have seen the film.

Iranians belong to the predominantly to the minority Muslim Shiite sect.

The Tehran Times reported that the Iranian embassy in New Delhi has issued a statement calling any opposition to the film before watching it “wrong, illogical, and inaccurate.”

“Muhammed,” which is likely to be Iran’s candidate for foreign language Oscar consideration, “is currently being dubbed into Arabic and English in hopes it will go onscreen in Muslim and non-Muslim countries,” the Tehran Times said.

Majidi was nominated for a foreign language Oscar in 1998 for “Children of Heaven.”

 

More Film

  • Durban FilmMart Celebrates Women as Industry

    Durban FilmMart Celebrates Women as Industry Still Struggles With Transformation

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

  • MayFair, directed by Sara Blecher

    Sara Blecher’s ‘Mayfair’ Brings Feminine Gaze to Gangster Tale

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

  • Todd Brown, XYZ Films

    African Finance Under Spotlight at Durban FilmMart  

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

  • Ryan Reynolds'Deadpool' panel, Comic-Con International, San

    Ryan Reynolds Wants to Explore Deadpool's Bisexuality in Future Films

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9243328q)From

    Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Restaurant Critic, Dies at 57

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

  • Johnny Depp Amber Heard

    Johnny Depp, Amber Heard Appear Moments Apart at WB's Comic-Con Panel

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

  • Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine and Gal

    'Wonder Woman 1984' Team Talks '80s Setting, Chris Pine's Resurrection

    Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content