The Message to hit Gulf cinemas after 42-year ban
After a 42-year ban in Middle East territories, Moustapha Akkad’s The Message is finally coming home with a cinema release in the region which includes Saudi Arabia.
The film will release over the Eid al-Fitr weekend starting from June 14, it has been announced.
The Message has a long and storied production followed by a tumultuous release worldwide.
Moustapha Akkad’s dream was to bridge the gap between cultures and foster a climate of tolerance and understanding but the film was initially shunned by authority figures.
Trouble started in the first phases of shooting and production as the crew was forced to move its set from the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, and into Morocco. This required set replica construction and exacerbated the budget.
Upon its’ completion, the film struggled to find a theatrical life in the Arab region while in the United States, The Message was met with a backlash from an offshoot of an Islamic group when it was erroneously thought that the image of the Prophet was portrayed on screen. Similar problems would surface throughout its’ Arab territory release eventually resulting in it either being pulled from theatres or an outright banning.
Now, courtesy of production company Trancas International Films and MENA distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment, the movie will get its release in a 4k digitally restored version.
The first ever screening of the 4K version took place in the latest edition of the Dubai International Film Festival, following which Malek Akkad, Moustapha’s son, and Front Row Filmed Entertainment’s managing director, Gianluca Chakra spearheaded a campaign to secure a wide theatrical release across the entire region.
Chakra and Akkad pressed the issue to censor boards in the GCC, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon and Ethiopia with only Kuwait banning the film.
However, in light of the approval from Saudi Arabia the film has been resubmitted in Kuwait in the hope the initial decision will be revoked.
“This was of utmost importance to us of course, given that the kingdom is the cradle of Islam and The Message is one of the very few mainstream films that portrays the peaceful and tolerant tenets of the religion in an honest way.
“The Saudi authorities allowed the film to pass and this in turn opened the door to the rest of the region. In the burgeoning landscape of the Saudi cinema market, The Message release could be its most important film.”