Moustafa Akkad's 1976 epic The Message to be screened in Saudi Arabia four decades after ban

Agence France-Presse

June 13, 2018 10:41:11 IST

The Message, Syrian-American director Moustafa Akkad's epic film about Prophet Mohammed, will be screened for the first time in Saudi cinemas on 14 June, four decades after an initial ban.

"Knowing that there were so many difficulties..., now that they're showing it in the theatres I couldn't be happier," Akkad's son told AFP.

A picture taken on June 12, 2018 shows announcement boards for the 4K digital restoration of the the dual English (L) and Arabic versions of the 1976 historical epic film "The Message" by the late Syrian director Mustafa Akkad, on display at Roxy Cinemas in Dubai, where screenings will be shown on the 40th anniversary of their release. AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB

Announcement boards for the 4K digital restoration of the 1976 historical epic film The Message by the late Syrian director Mustafa Akkad, on display at Roxy Cinemas in Dubai. AFP/ Karim Sahib

The 1976 film has been widely-watched in the Arab world since its release. But it was banned in the land of Islam's holiest sites and boycotted by conservatives for its depiction of the prophet and his companions.

"It caused a lot of controversies and there were a lot of obstacles put in its way," said Akkad's son, Malik Moustafa Akkad, noting it remains banned in Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia lifted a longstanding ban on cinemas last year, part of an easing of social restrictions pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi theatres will now screen a restored version of the 1976 epic, produced from the film's original negatives.

"Even if you've seen the film, you've never seen it look this good," said Akkad's son. The late director "always intended it to be a big-screen event. And that's the way to see it", he added.

Profits from the screenings will support a scholarship fund for filmmakers from the region to study at Moustafa Akkad's alma mater, the University of Southern California.

The Aleppo-born director perished with his daughter in the 2005 Amman hotel bombings claimed by Al-Qaeda that cost dozens of lives.

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2018 10:41 AM