Saeed Kamali Dehghan in The Guardian:
A multimillion-dollar biopic about the childhood of the prophet Muhammad – Iran’s most expensive and lavish film to date – is set to premiere on Sunday.
Tehran’s Fajr international film festival, which coincides with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, is scheduled to show the country’s own version of how Islam’s most revered figure lived. To protect the prophet’s dignity, the film will be shown out of competition.
Iran has been a vocal critic of the prophet’s portrayal in the west, recentlyexpressing strong condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Paris, which depicted Muhammad weeping and holding up a sign reading Je Suis Charlie.
The film, to be released as Muhammad, Messenger of God” in the festival’s opening ceremony, is made by Majid Majidi, a leading pro-establishment Iranian director who has worked for more than five years – with a great deal of secrecy – to produce what is only the second big-budget feature made about the prophet. The first was Moustapha Akkad’s 1976 The Message, starring Anthony Quinn, which sparked controversy despite not showing the prophet on screen to avoid hurting Muslim sensitivities.
Majidi has had his own doubts about Akkad’s biopic, which he said failed to do justice to Muhammad’s life by showing “only Jihad and war” and also because “the image of Islam in that film is the image of a sword”.
Majidi’s state-sponsored film, which is the first part of an ambitious trilogy about the prophet’s life, tells the story of Muhammad from his birth to the age of 12, ending with his first visit to Sham (Syria) where Bahira, a Christian monk, is believed to have predicted he would one day become a prophet.