×

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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Mickey Rourke

    Mickey Rourke Joins Religious Drama 'Man of God'

    Pure Flix/Quality Flix has picked up international sales rights to religious drama “Man of God,” starring Mickey Rourke, Aris Servetalis and Alexander Petrov. The rights are for sale at the Berlin Film Festival. “Man of God,” directed and written by Yelena Popovic. Producers are Alexandros Potter and Yelena Popovic through their company Simeon Entertainment and [...]

  • Young Hunter

    'Young Hunter': Film Review

    Director-writer Marco Berger has been playing with same-sex seduction since his debut, “Plan B,” frequently pitching one confident gay man against a more closeted or curious conquest. Eleven years after that first feature, his latest, “Young Hunter,” continues to riff on the same theme, here exhibiting parallels with the entrapment scenario of 2011’s “Absent” in [...]

  • Kumail Nanjiani Stuber

    Film News Roundup: Kumail Nanjiani Boards Political Thriller 'The Independent'

    In today’s film news roundup, Kumail Nanjiani has been cast as a journalist, Daisy Ridley boards Imax’s “Asteroid Hunters,” “Best Summer Ever” leads off a festival, Shelley Duvall gets an honor and “Dark Harvest” lands at MGM. PROJECT LAUNCH Kumail Nanjiani will star in the political thriller “The Independent,” which is being introduced to buyers [...]

  • Balloon

    'Balloon': Film Review

    On paper, the plight of a pair of families fleeing 1979’s East Germany in a hot air balloon sounds like fabricated fodder for a spy novel. But as implausible as it sounds, this “The Mysterious Island”-esque grand escape from Deutschland’s then walled-in, oppressive slice really did happen. And nearly four decades after being the subject [...]

  • J.D. Dillard Star Wars

    New 'Star Wars' Movie in Development With 'Sleight' Director, 'Luke Cage' Writer

    Lucasfilm is developing a new “Star Wars” feature film with “Sleight” writer-director J.D. Dillard and “Luke Cage” writer Matt Owens, Variety has confirmed. The project is still in its very early stages, and all further details — characters, location, time period within the “Star Wars” creative galaxy — remain a mystery. That includes whether Dillard would [...]

  • Foster Boy

    Shaquille O'Neal on Why Foster Care Is the Great Untold Story

    It’s no secret that I have suffered some losses lately. For better or worse, my pain and grief are public. But I understand the opportunity to face the pain, learn from it, and model a behavior. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But there are hundreds of thousands of kids across the U.S. — [...]

  • Emerald Run

    'Emerald Run': Film Review

    “Emerald Run” is one of the weirdest hodgepodges to make its way to theater screens and digital platforms in quite some time. Unfortunately, oddness is just about the only thing this muddled little indie has going for it. Despite the game efforts of lead actor David Chokachi and attractive lensing by DP Michael Caradonna, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content