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