The choice of the first Arab film to ever be screened in Saudi Arabia landed on « The Message », epic film by the American-Syrian filmmaker Moustapha Akkad, chronicling the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Restored in 4K version, the film had already been presented last December at the Dubai Film Festival.
Hoping for a theatrical release in Muslim countries, the rights holders of the feature film, including producer Malek Akkad, son of the late director, pressed the issue to censor boards of several countries to avoid any bad surprises and count on a release for the Eid holidays.
As reported by The Hollywood reporter, having initially received immense backlash from middle eastern countries following its release in 1976, the producers of the film have addressed the issue to the censorship committees of countries like the GCC, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Morocco (where it was partially filmed). Only Kuwait has banned the film. However, as the American newspaper explains, the authorization issued by Saudi Arabia could lead to a change of position of its Kuwaiti ally.
« My father Moustapha didn’t have the chance to see [The Message’s cinema release] fulfilled in his lifetime, but I know he would have been very proud, » said Akkad’s son to the same source. « This is a tribute to him. He wanted to share his love of this culture and the important lessons of Islam and The Message to everyone. Now, in a time when the world needs it most, his dream will come alive. »
Moustapha Akkad died in 2005 in Amman in a terrorist attack on the hotel where he was staying with his daughter, also killed in the attack. The producer is also one of the fathers of the horror franchise « Halloween », since taken over by his son.