Film Focus: Muhammad – The Last Prophet
It says a lot about the mood of America that it’s taken five years since production began on an animated film about the Islamic prophet Muhammad for it to arrive in US cinemas. The project was delayed because of concerns over an anti-Muslim backlash in the wake of the attacks of September 11th, but now the film has found an audience.
It’s being called the first animated film by Moslems to premiere in North America. ‘Muhammad: The Last Prophet‘ aims to tell the story of Islam to a new generation of Moslems here and give Westerners a more positive depiction of the Middle East than the one they get on their nightly news.
The film was a hit when it was released two years ago in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon but it wasn’t easy getting it seen anywhere else, particularly in the US.
At first American movie theatres weren’t interested is showing the film. They doubted that it would attract audiences, particularly in the aftermath of September 11. So the distributors launched a grassroots effort, renting cinemas themselves in dozens of cities and selling tickets on-line.
The plan seems to have worked – those screenings have been packed. And now the distributors say they are hoping have the film available in cinemas across America by the end of the year. American Moslems say it’s about time.
Directed by Disney veteran Richard Rich and written by Brian Nissen – the team behind animated features such as ‘Moses‘, ‘Joseph In Egypt‘, ‘Joseph’s Reunion‘ and ‘Abraham and Isaac‘ – ‘Muhammad: The Last Prophet‘ combines typically western cartoon images with a script that was approved by Islamic scholars. The $10 million needed to make the film came from a Saudi investor.
According to Islamic law, Muhammad cannot be visually depicted. The film gets around this problem by making the prophet’s point of view the audience’s own.
Some critics say the film risks coming across as a commercial for Islam, with its serious and ponderous tone. Moslem activists strongly disagree and point out that they’re not alone in depicting religious figures in cinema to promote their faith.