After a 42-year ban in MENA territories, Moustapha Akkad’s classic 'The Message' is finally getting a theatrical release in the region including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The film will release over the Eid al-Fitr weekend starting from June 14, 2018.
Moustapha Akkad’s dream with 'The Message' was to bridge the gap between cultures and foster a climate of tolerance and understanding but the film was initially shunned by authority figures. After a long and storied production, the release of the film was dogged by worldwide controversies.
Trouble for the movie started in the first phases of shooting and production as the crew was forced to move film sets from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, and into Morocco. This required set replica construction and exacerbated the budget of the film shot in both English and Arabic with separate high profile cast members.
Upon its’ completion, in an ironic twist, the film struggled to find a theatrical life in the Arab region. In the United States, the film was met with a backlash from an offshoot of an Islamic group when it was erroneously thought that the image of the Prophet was portrayed on screen. Similar problems would surface throughout its’ Arab territory release eventually resulting in it either being pulled from theatres or an outright banning.
Now, courtesy of production company Trancas International Films and MENA distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment, THE MESSAGE will get its’ much-deserved release in a 4k digitally restored version. The undertaking of the restoration was a labor of love from Trancas’ Malek Akkad, Moustapha’s son, who has carried the mantle and brought his father’s dream to the big screen finally.
The first ever screening of the 4K version took place in the latest edition of the Dubai International Film Festival. Parents came with their families to watch the film and share in the special experience of The Message. Prior to this, the film was an old staple in Muslim households during Islamic holidays as people gathered to watch it on VHS in their living rooms. It was a chance for parents to pass the revered tenets of the religion to their children.
After the successful DIFF premiere, Malek Akkad and Front Row Filmed Entertainment’s Managing Director, Gianluca Chakra spearheaded an often difficult campaign to secure a wide theatrical release across the entire region. Chakra and Akkad pressed the issue to censor boards in the GCC, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon and Ethiopia with only Kuwait banning the film. However, in light of the approval from Saudi Arabia the film has been resubmitted in Kuwait in the hope the initial decision will be revoked.
When news came of Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its’ first cinemas, the exhibitors made it a priority to have 'The Message' play in KSA's first theatres.
Gianluca Chakra, Managing Director of Front Row Filmed Entertainment commented: “This was of utmost importance to us of course, given that the Kingdom is the cradle of Islam and 'THE MESSAGE' is one of the very few mainstream films that portrays the peaceful and tolerant tenets of the religion in an honest way. The Saudi authorities allowed the film to pass and this in turn opened the door to the rest of the region. In the burgeoning landscape of the Saudi cinema market, this release could be its most important film.”
Chakra added: “As a Gulf distribution company, we feel it is our duty to present The Message to Arabic and Islamic audiences and to the world. Front Row is extremely fortunate to be a part of the important history and future of this film.”
Front Row Filmed Entertainment will be handling distribution across all Pay TV and Free TV platforms for the newly restored film.
Commenting on the release, Trancas’ Malek Akkad said: “My father Moustapha didn’t have the chance to see this fulfilled in his lifetime, but I know he would have been very proud. 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.”