Iran pre­mieres big-bud­get epic film ‘Muham­mad,’ in first part of tril­ogy

The China Post - - ARTS - BY ALI NOORANI

Iran’s most ex­pen­sive movie, “Muham­mad,” which chron­i­cles the child­hood of the Mus­lim prophet, opened na­tion­wide on Thurs­day, win­ning praise from early au­di­ences.

Di­rected by Ma­jid Ma­jidi, the 171-minute, vis­ually stun­ning film cost around US$40 mil­lion, partly funded by the state, and took more than seven years to com­plete.

Ma­jidi says the aim of his work, the first part of a tril­ogy, is to re­claim the right­ful im­age of Is­lam, which he said ex­trem­ists have dis­torted.

“Un­for­tu­nately at this time the im­pres­sion of Is­lam is of a rad­i­cal, fa­nat­i­cal and vi­o­lent re­li­gion, which is not what it’s about,” he said in Mon­treal, where “Muham­mad” had its in­ter­na­tional pre­miere, hours af­ter screen­ing back home.

“The bar­baric acts of ter­ror­ism con­ducted by ter­ror­ist groups un­der the guise of Is­lam are not re­lated to Is­lam,” he said, al­lud­ing to be­head­ings and de­struc­tion of cul­tural trea­sures by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Syria and Iraq.

“Is­lam is a re­li­gion of peace, friend­ship and love, and I tried to show this in the film.”

“Muham­mad,” which cap­tures Saudi Ara- bia more than 1,400 years ago, of­fers much more than stereo­typ­i­cal trains of Arabs on camels rid­ing across yel­low sand dunes.

It takes cin­ema­go­ers from the birth of the fu­ture prophet up to his teenage years, and is packed with mir­a­cles.

The crew of “Muham­mad” is in­dica­tive of the film’s am­bi­tion.

It in­cludes three-time Os­car-win­ning Ital­ian cin­e­matog­ra­pher Vit­to­rio Storaro, while the score was de­vised by In­dia’s Al­lah Rakha Rah­man, a dou­ble Academy Award win­ner for the Danny Boyle-di­rected block­buster “Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire.”

In one scene, an army of tribes­men mounted on ele­phants charges the holy city of Mecca to heart-pound­ing mu­sic, only to be de­stroyed by a flock of crows hurl­ing stones.

In another, in­tensely emo­tional scene, the boy heals his nanny with a touch of his hand.

“It was very mov­ing for us,” said Mahsa Ra­soulzadeh, 40, ac­com­pa­nied by her mother and teenage daugh­ter at Kourosh Cin­ema in west Tehran.

The theater was around two-thirds full at an 11 a.m. show­ing on Thurs­day, the first day of the Ira­nian week­end, but af­ter­noon ses­sions were sold out in ad­vance and two more had to be added for af­ter mid­night to meet de­mand.

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