6 items from 2015
Considered the most expensive Iranian movie ever made, the $40 million epic was lensed by Vittorio Storaro and features a score by Indian composer A.R. Rahman. The film recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India and has also sparked other forms of disapproval from Sunni religious authorities. Many Muslims consider any depiction of Muhammad to be taboo, even fleeting glimpses, such as those in the film.
Iran is largely Islam, with the vast majority belonging to the Shiite sect.
The partly government-financed “Muhammad” is playing on more than half of Iran’s roughly 320 screens after opening the Montreal Film Festival on Aug. 27.
Box office receipts have hit over 70 billion Iranian Rials, roughly $2 million in one month, according to the government-controlled Tehran Times. »
- Nick Vivarelli
Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” the lavish epic lensed by multiple Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro about the birth and rise of Islam, that recently prompted a fatwa from a Muslim group in India – angered about its alleged depiction of God – is reportedly doing strong box office on wide release in roughly half of Iran’s cinemas.
The partly government-financed “Muhammad,” which cost some $40 million and is considered the Islamic Republic’s most expensive film, is playing on more than 140 of Iran’s 320 screens and in many cultural centres in remote cities across the country after opening the Montreal Film Festival on August 27.
Box office receipts for “Muhammad” have hit 30 billion Iranian Rials, roughly $1 million, in two weeks, according to the government-controlled Tehran Times. If that figure is accurate, it’s a nice haul.
The incendiary issue that Muslims are not allowed to depict God in images »
- Nick Vivarelli
A Sunni group called the Raza Academy issued the fatwa on Friday in protest at Majidi’s film “Muhammad: Messenger of God,” for which Rahman scored the music.
The group says that the film should not use the word Mohammad as its title, as criticism of the film could be misinterpreted as criticizing the Prophet Mohammad. And it says that Muslims are not allowed to depict God in images.
Though the word is often conflated with a death threat, a fatwa is an Islamic legal opinion, the weight of which depends on the authority of the person issuing it. Novelist and filmmaker Salman Rushdie lived in hiding for several years after receiving a fatwa that explicitly called for his death from Iran’s powerful Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 for Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses. »
- Patrick Frater
Prolific Indian composer A.R. Rahman has decided to slow down in order to get more done.
The composer, who won an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire” and was nominated for “127 Hours,” has decided to cut down his Hollywood assignments. His hitherto peripatetic life — he finished a summer concert series in the U.S. and just played a one-off show at London’s O2 Arena — will now be largely confined to Chennai, India, where he will spend more time with his young family and his passion project, the Km Music Conservatory.
Launched in 2008 under the aegis of the A.R. Rahman Foundation, the conservatory offers diplomas in collaboration with the U.K.’s Middlesex U. that combines the Hindustani and Western classical traditions, as well as a range of part-time courses including instrumental and vocal training, audio engineering and electronic music production.
Considered India’s preeminent composer, the 48-year-old Rahman has scored some 150 films in the Tamil, »
- Naman Ramachandran
Majid Majidi, the first Iranian helmer nominated for the foreign-language film Oscar (for 1997’s “The Children of Heaven”), delivers his country’s most expensive film to date with the lumbering, old-fashioned and overlong historical epic “Muhammad: The Messenger of God.” Budgeted in the neighborhood of $40 million, and boasting big names behind the scenes such as lenser Vittorio Storaro and composer A.R. Rahman, as well as craft departments bristling with foreign technicians, the 171-minute pic is the first of a projected trilogy that took seven years to complete. It hasn’t been worth the wait: The end result is something more akin to 1950s Hollywood biblical fare rather than Darren Aronofsky’s recent “Noah” or anything in Majidi’s previous oeuvre.
- Alissa Simon
As it marks its 39th year, the Montreal World Film Festival mirrors the tenacious, even pugnacious spirit of its founder and director, Serge Losique.
Launched in 1977, the Montreal fest was conceived as an alternative to the Venice Film Festival, which had been sidelined over political strife for most of the preceding decade.
Losique, well connected in the international film community, says he was pressured by MPAA head Jack Valenti and European producers to make Montreal the home of a competitive fall festival. “I didn’t like the idea,” Losique remembers, saying his loyalties were with the local film conservatory and overseeing the Canadian Student Film Festival, the oldest fest in the country.
But he caved on the guarantee he could control the event and avoid having “too many cooks” fighting for their vision. “Once you start, you cannot leave it, period,” the 84-year-old festival head says of his role.
- Steven Gaydos
6 items from 2015
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