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Iran's biggest film to premiere.

Iran's biggest film epic yet, "Muhammad: The Messenger of God," will be released in theaters all across Iran next Wednesday and then will get its international debut the following day at the Monlieal World Film Festival.

The 171-minute film was directed and co-written by Majid Majidi, one of only two Iranians working in Iran to have ever gotten an Academy Award nomination. He received the Best Foreign Language Film nomination in 1999 for his production, "Children of Heaven."

The film is the first of a planned trilogy and portrays the life of the prophet up to age 12. In keeping with Islamic tradition, his face is never shown on the screen.

At a news conference Tuesday, Majidi said that he made the film because he wanted to show a correct definition of Islam to the world, especially because certain countries were promoting an inaccurate portrayal of Islam in their films.

The last major film about the life of Mohammad was Moustapha Akkad's 1976 movie "The Message." Majid said he had doubts about Akkad's film, saying it showed "only jihad and war" and because "the image of Islam in that film is the image of the sword."

Majidi's film will be released simultaneously next Wednesday in 143 Iranian theaters, an unprecedented mass release.

Majidi devoted seven years to the making of the film.

Barring a few scenes filmed in South Africa, the production was done on a set created near Qom. The set reproduces Mecca as it might have appeared 1,400 years ago, when it was little more than a village built around the kaaba.

The actors are largely Iranian, but the production staff is international.

They include director of photography Vittorio Storaro (Oscars for Apocalypse Now, Reds and The Last Emperor), editor Roberto Perpignani (Padre Padrone, Il Postino, Caesar Must Die), special effects designer Scott E. Anderson (Oscar winner for Babe), makeup designer Gianetto De Rossi (1900, Fellini's Casanova, Dune) and Indian composer A. R. Rahman.

According to Majidi, he and a research team of historians and archaeologists had consulted with Shia and Sunni scholars from Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Iraq in order to ensure an accurate portrayal of Mohammad's early years.

Majidi said, "The film contains no conlioversies and no differences between the Shia and the Sunni points of view."

However, the film met with criticism prior to its release, predominantly from Sunni Arab countties. Last February, Egypt's Al-Azhar University called on Iran to ban the film. According to the university, the film debases the sanctity of messengers from God.

The scenes filmed in South Africa were those requiring elephants. Most of the filming was done in secrecy and without any news coverage, allowing no journalists to visit or report from filming locations.

The film is uniformly billed as the largest cinematic production ever in Iran. News reports have carried assorted figures on its budget, such as $19 million, $21 million, $50 million and $550 million. The last figure is not credible and would make the film the most expensive in the history of moviemaking.

The producers of the film have planned two sequels that would complete the trilogy. The second film would focus on Mohammad's life from his teenage years to his 40s. The third would depict his life in his 40s when he became the Prophet of Islam.

No schedule for general release in North America has yet been announced.
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Title Annotation:Muhammad: The Messenger of God
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Aug 21, 2015
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