Saudi Arabian censors have today cleared Moustapha Akkad's classic story of the foundation of Islam, The Message, to screen in cinemas in the kingdom. The 1976 film will open in Saudi on June 14 as part of its region-wide release - this will be the first time the film will have been seen in GCC cinemas. It was banned from screens on its initial release.
Distributor Front Row Films has confirmed that the process of achieving clearance was relatively straightforward. The film, which was shot in both English and Arabic with entirely different casts, is now set to go on rotation on Saudi's five existing cinema screens. Another Eid release has cleared the censors there too, Jurassic World.
It is a different story in Kuwait, however. The National understands that the film was submitted to Kuwaiti religious leaders, who approved the film's content for local audiences, however, a last minute intervention from Kuwait's Ministry of Information put a block on the release. Front Row added that, in light of the Saudi approval, they will be resubmitting the film in Kuwait, with hopes the Kuwaiti authorities may reconsider in time for the film to release there along with the rest of the region.
Front Row chief Gianluca Chakra commented on the Saudi news: “We’re delighted that the film has been passed for screening in Saudi Arabia. This film is a vitally important part of the region’s history and culture, and to finally see it screening in Saudi Arabia is the culmination of a dream, and testament to the belief we’ve always had in this vital piece of cinema history. We’re thrilled and honoured to have been able to play our part in this journey.”
The Saudi screenings will represent a journey that has come full-circle for Akkad’s Oscar-nominated movie. Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that initially agreed to help fund the movie, and Akkad had hoped to shoot crucial scenes there before the controversy growing around his project led to numerous regional backers, including Saudi Arabia, withdrawing their support.
The film chronicles the life of the Prophet Mohammed without ever depicting him - it uses peripheral characters who followed Him to tell His tale.
The trailer for the English version of the film:
The trailer for the Arabic version of the film: