1049 GMT February 22, 2020
Two sold-out screenings in Iran followed quickly on the Montreal debut, to an apparently enthusiastic response, according to director Majidi. The new 190-minute film focuses on Prophet Muhammad's childhood, careful not to show his face. The movie puts him in various scenes and relies on his point-of-view and the family members around him to convey the story, rcinet.ca reported.
At a press conference on Thursday, Majidi, with the producer and three of the lead actors in attendance, answered questions about the cost and the motivation of the film.
The most expensive Iranian movie ever, at US$40 million, Majidi explained, through an interpreter, that half of the cost is invested in the future, with the creation of the buildings and locations of ancient Mecca and Medina, just south of Tehran. It is a Cinema City that will boost the Iranian film industry.
As for the story of Muhammad (PBUH), Majidi said he is trying to open a new window to show Islam to the whole world. He says it is an attempt to clear up the ideas or misconceptions and that radicals and terrorists have hijacked the name of Islam. Barbaric acts, he said, have no relationship with Islam.
"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.
"Islam is a religion of peace, friendship and love, and I tried to show this in the film."
Asked if it was a propaganda film, the award-winning director responded by numbers citing the 200 movies made about the life of Christ, 100 films about Moses and 42 movies about Buddha. He said it has been a shortcoming not to introduce Islam to the world. There was a previous movie made in 1976, by a Syrian-American he said. That movie, titled, 'The Message' starred Anthony Quinn.
Majidi's film weaves together the story of the mystical signs of a prophet to come with the birth and troubled childhood of the boy, with the power struggles and wheeling and dealing between Jewish, Arabic and early Christian communities.
Majidi said four years of research went into the film, consulting both Sunni and Shia scholars and historians. At over three hours in length, there are some very strong performances, and sweeping scenes that make it a visual feast.
The movie on Thursday opened nationwide, winning praise from early audiences.
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'.