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Saudi to screen ‘The Message’ four decades after ban

DUBAI (AFP) – “The Message”, Syrian-American director Moustafa Akkad s epic film about Prophet Mohammed, will be screened for the first time in Saudi cinemas on Thursday — 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.

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 controversy 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.

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