February 3, 2015 By Saad Salmi. AP

Prophet’s Childhood: Majidi’s Take the Talk of Tinseltown

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The cinema world is waiting with bated breath to see MajidMajidi’s take on the Prophet Muhammad’s eventful life. The film had hogged limelight mainly for two reasons: first, the focus of his film is on the Prophet’s childhood; so it would be the first attempt to bring the childhood of the Prophet on screen. Also, since Majidi is widely known for his portrayal of children, especially their innocence,it would be a chance for his fans and cinema buffs in general to see his interpretation of the Prophet’s early life. Second, Majidi has reservation about the earlier portrayals of the Prophet, especially Mostapha Akkad’s Messenger, for their take on war and violence, adding thereby, in his opinion, to the images of sword and battlefield current in the portrayal of Islam. So the premier of the film set on 1stFebruary this year, (no news report thereof has come out so far) was/is a remarkable event in the history of cinema.

Majid Majidi set off his cinematic voyage as an actor and director of short films. He focused his attention on simple stories, which relied on undaunted directorial way and a mystical portrayal of Islamic faith. He has to his credit an array of films, including The Color of paradise (1999), Baran (2001), and the songs of sparrows (2008) which helped him become an internationally recognized filmmaker. Children of Heaven, the first Iranian film to be nominated for an academy award, was a turning point in Majidi’s career.

A personal dearest of Ayatollah khamnei, Majidi has conducted innumerable gatherings between the supreme leader and members of the Iranian film industry. Given the religious ceremonies he conducted at his own home, the secular-liberal filmic community always looked down on his films.

“Muhammed, Messenger of God”, premiered in Tehran’s Fajr International Film Festival, is the big-budget film depicting the life of the Prophet. Moustafa Akkad’s ‘The Message’ was the first feature film to be made about the prophet, which caused controversy even though it had not shown the prophet on screen. Majidi’s state-sponsored film recounts the story of prophet mohammed from his birth to the age of 12. The film ends with his visit to Sham. There, a Christian monk named Bahira had predicted mohammed’s prophecy. Majidi already told the media that Prophet’s face had not been shown in the film, and that Vittorio Storano, an Italian cinematographer, has worked on different amalgamations of light and darkness for the realization of making religious portrayals in the film.

In contrast with Sunni tradition, Shia Iranians do not have serious issues towards visualizing religious personas. In a press conference he defended himself against the fears of a counterblast. He said that he had consulted Shii and Sunni scholars in the Muslim world before he set off to make the film: ‘’We chose a period of his life about which there is no difference between different Shii and Sunni scholars and groups. We made this film with the view of bringing unity [to] the Muslim world. ‘’

A meditative and mysterious film maker, Majidi made this film in complete silence and without any news coverage. Journalists were not allowed to report from his filming locations. In the course of filming he has not talked to his actors directly, instead they were asked to talk to his assistant. Owing to having to become concerned about the sensitivity of depicting the life of the prophet, he distanced himself from all media attentions.

Bonyad Mostazafan, a charitable institution under Khamenei’s authority is the financer of the movie. In 2012 Khamenei had visited the film’s location near the holy city of Qom. There, the replicas of sixth century mecca and medina had been built. The remaining parts of the film were filmed in South Africa. Other than Storro, who brought his team from Italy, other international personas consist of Oscar-winning Scott E Anderson and the Iranian-born British singer Sami Yusuf.

A mystic in disguise of a film maker, Majidi’s works adds our sense of admiration for him. His visual poetry always engages us by masterfully exposing the beauty of the Islamic tradition.

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