Saudi Arabia’s First Arabic Release Is Controversial Islamic Epic ‘The Message’

Variety | 6/11/2018 | Nick Vivarelli
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After Saudi Arabia recently broke its 35-year ban on cinema with Hollywood titles such as “Black Panther,” “Isle of Dogs” and “A Quiet Place,” the kingdom is now set for its first release of an Arabic film, the 4K restored version of controversial 1976 prophet Muhammad epic “The Message.”

Helmed by Syrian-American film producer and director Moustapha Akkad, “The Message” was an ambitious but failed attempt to bridge cultures with an origins-of-Islam narrative. The film was initially backed by, among others, the Saudi government of the time, but Saudi authorities subsequently turned against the film’s production as hard-line clerics gained more influence and the country took the ultra-conservative turn that caused movie theaters in the kingdom to be banned in the early 1980s.

Message - Music - Oscar - Versions - English

“The Message,” which was nominated for a best music Oscar in 1977, was made in two versions: one in English, toplining Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas, and one in Arabic with some of the biggest Arab stars of the day, such as late Egyptian actor Abdullah Gheith and Syria’s Mouna Wasef.

Both versions have now been cleared by Saudi censors and will be released Thursday by producer Trancas Entertainment and distributor Front Row in the VOX Riyadh Park multiplex in the Saudi capital. Negotiations are underway for “The Message” to also be released in AMC theaters in the kingdom.

Father - Moustapha - Chance - Message - Release

“My father Moustapha didn’t have the chance to see [‘The Message’s’ theatrical release] fulfilled in his lifetime, but I know he would have been very proud,” Trancas’ Malek Akkad said in a statement. “This is a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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