November 2, 2009

Probably not a good idea

From Reuters:
An epic film about Islam's Prophet Mohammad backed by the producer of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Matrix" is being planned with the aim of "bridging cultures." Filming of the $150-million English-language movie is set to start in 2011 with American Barrie Osborne as its producer, Qatari media company Alnoor Holdings said on Sunday. The film - in which the Prophet would not be depicted, in accordance with Islamic rules - is in development and talks are being held with studios, talent agencies and distributors in the United States and Britain, Alnoor said.

This was already done in the 1970s, in the movie Mohammed, Messenger of God, directed by Mustapha Akkad, producer of the Halloween horror movies, who was blown up by Al Qaeda in 2005 while attending a wedding at a hotel in Jordan. The 1976 movie starred Anthony Quinn s as Hamza, Muhammad's uncle. According to Wikipedia:

In accordance with Muslim beliefs regarding depictions of Muhammad, he could not be depicted on-screen nor his voice be heard. This rule extends to his wives, his daughters and his sons-in-law. This leaves Muhammad's uncle Hamza (Anthony Quinn) and his adopted son Zayd (Damien Thomas) as the central characters. During the battles of Badr and Uhud depicted in the movie, Hamza is in nominal command even though the actual fighting was led by Muhammad.

Whenever Muhammad is present or very close by, his presence is indicated by light organ music. His words, as he speaks them, are repeated by someone else such as Hamza, Zayd and Bilal. When a scene calls for him to be present, the action is filmed from his point of view. Others in the scene nod to the unheard dialogue.

Getting funding was difficult, nearly shutting down filming until Colonel Qadaffi ended up as the main backer. (The production is parodied in Commentary film critic Richard Grenier's hilarious novel The Marrakesh One-Two, where the film crew wanders about the Muslim world looking for a government with enough oil money but not enough fundamentalism to back the film. At the end, they are so desperate that they are on their way to one country so awful they always swore they'd never go there: Iraq.)

According to Mark Deming:
Unfounded rumors had it that Mohammed would not only be depicted in the film, but that he was to be played by Charlton Heston or Peter O'Toole. This resulted in angry protests by Muslim extremists, until director Moustapha Akkad hired a staff of respected Islamic clerics as technical advisors. The advisors butted heads with Akkad, and they quit the production, which led the Moroccan government to withdraw their permission to film in their country. In time, Akkad ended up shooting on location in Libya under the sponsorship of Muammar Qaddafi, which presented a whole new set of political and practical problems for the filmmakers. Finally, when the film was scheduled to premier in the U.S., another Muslim extremist group staged a siege against the Washington D.C. chapter of the B'nai B'rith under the mistaken belief that Anthony Quinn played Mohammed in the film, threatening to blow up the building and its inhabitants unless the film's opening was cancelled. The standoff was resolved without explosion or injuries, though the film's American box office prospects never recovered from the unfortunate controversy.

The funny thing is that, judging by the comments on IMDB, many Muslims really like the 1976 movie and appreciate that the poor filmmakers went to all the trouble of making it. The problem, as usual with Muslims, was the hotheads. But are there fewer hotheads now than in 1976?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's the religion of peace. What could go wrong?

kudzu bob said...

I hope that Uwe Boll directs it. Islam would collapse through sheer mass insanity, or else Boll would be torn to pieces by an enraged Muslim mob and never make another shitty film. Either way...

jody said...

holy heck. i had no idea the story behind that one. my goodness that is serious stuff.

Mark said...

How do you mock a group that's a parody of itself?

Back in college I had two Muslim girls in my freshman chemistry class who refused to be lab partners with anyone but each other. Seriously. The lab was full and one of the girls wanted to get in but both girls went up and accosted the lab instructor, telling him that the first couldn't stay if she couldn't have the second as a partner. The guy who walked up and dropped the class, opening a spot for the girl should've gotten a Nobel Peace Prize.

rosserw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred said...

Were there any Muslim protests of Dune when that movie was produced back in the early 80s, or did the Muslims not get the obvious parallels?

greenrivervalleyman said...

Of course the funny thing is that Muslims and philo-Islamic academics (c.f. Montgomery Watt) often use Muslims' acceptance of Muhammad's basic humanity as proof of Islam's logical superiority to Christianity, since it does not deal in all the metaphysical complexities ( homoousian vs. homoiousian) that have- pardon the expression- bedeviled Christology for s long. So Muhammad is just a man. Whom it is forbidden to depict. Except when Persian miniaturists do it.

What analysts of Islam, even Muslim ones, do not get is that Islam is not driven by its highest expressions, such as Islamic philosophy, or theology, or even law. No, the dynamo at Islam's heart is Arabism, and the Arab's instinct for revenge, "honor", and predatory opportunism. I don't care how many panels and super-panels of "eminent Islamic scholars" are convened. The sine qua non for answering how something will fly in the Muslim world is: can it be construed (in even the remotest way) as a "humiliation" of Muslims by evil Westerners?

Take Obama's pseudo-Muslim status. It has not been an issue yet, but will detonate the second it is suggested (or rumored, or outright fabricated on al-Jazeera) that he adopted Christianity because he somehow considered it "superior" to Islam. Then calls for the death or reversion of the "apostate" will become deafening in the Arab street.

A similar principle applies to depictions of Muhammad. Muslims themselves have some latitude, but when "arrogant" Westerners attempt it, only the most bootlicking sycophancy becomes acceptable. The Danish cartoons, for example, were quite innocuous by any objective standard, yet they still managed to send the Muslim world into fits of apoplexy. Yet on the other hand Muslims themselves have produced quasi-authoritative tales of how the prophet's birth was prefigured by the emission of so much light from his mother's vagina that "the forts of Syria" were lit by it (google "Muhammad birth castles Syria"). Go figure.

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

Good God (or Allah as it were),

I would make a movie like this (depicting the Prophet and his family at that) just to piss off all these fundies.

Fred said...

"I would make a movie like this (depicting the Prophet and his family at that) just to piss off all these fundies."

Where's Mel Gibson when we need him?

wren said...

Perhaps some enterprising youtuber could add a few elements to the final cut to make it more palatable to westerners.

I spent a very enjoyable afternoon reading "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" recently, and imagine that a similar mashup could do wonders for the film.

Anonymous said...

I still hope some brave souls out there make a Islamic version of 'The Life of Brian'. Better yet, an Islamic 'Life of Brian' made by Mel Brooks.

Of course, everyone associated with the film would be hunted down and beheaded well before the riots and arson fires had died down across Europe and the Middle East.

It'll never happen, but someone, somewhere has got to see that Islam is a comedy goldmine ripe for mining.

James said...

Steve Sailer wrote: "looking for a government with enough oil money but not enough fundamentalism ..."

This sort of wit reminds me over again of why I enjoy reading Mr. Sailer's website so much.

Readers interested in Churchill's disrespectful 1950s reference to the, uh, religion of peace - as well as, I'm afraid, his equal lack of respect toward the Founder of Christianity, which is why I won't spell the story out here - might be interested in this anecdote concerning Winnie and whoever was Pakistan's boss at the time. The occasion was a Commonwealth conference:

http://www.anecdotage.com/index.php?aid=1981

Mr. Anon said...

"kudzu bob said...

I hope that Uwe Boll directs it. Islam would collapse through sheer mass insanity, or else Boll would be torn to pieces by an enraged Muslim mob and never make another shitty film. Either way..."

My vote for director would be Lars Von Trier. Same reason as you.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see some filmmaker test the limits of free speech by doing a version of Voltaire's play MAHOMET THE PROPHET, OR FANATICISM. It would be interesting to see which eurozone countries accepted or rejected Voltaire today.

Lost Pilgrim said...

Yeah,

This will be great. Since they were so true to the source books on Lord of the Rings, I bet they'll be similarly accurate depicting Muhammad. I imagine they will do a 'Faramir' on Muhammad and show him doing all sorts of evil behavior. For instance, he could have sex with children or tell his followers to ambush and murder people because they don't believe in his religion, or any number of despicable things.

Dutch Boy said...

In Islamic tradition Mohammed is a de facto god - Muslims are famously intolerant of any who do not respect his godhood.

airtommy said...

Fred said:

"I would make a movie like this (depicting the Prophet and his family at that) just to piss off all these fundies."

Where's Mel Gibson when we need him?


How silly. Mel Gibson made a movie about Christ that was smashingly popular among Christians and offended the arch-enemies of Christianity (secular liberal Jews, etc). Are you suggesting you want a movie about Mohammed that energizes a billion Muslims while offending Zionists? I doubt that a Neocon such as yourself would want that.

Anonymous said...

greenrivervalleyman,

For whatever the *%@! it is worth, I am in the process of zero-ing in on the same conclusion - that Islam is the means by which the Arab world has managed to export its pathologies.

The study of Islam then should focus on what it is about those pathologies that makes them so compelling to so many people.

I think there's more to it than good marketing, that only goes so far.

jarrett said...

Still waiting for Larry David to piss on a portrait of Muhammad....

albertosaurus said...

I've got the perfect solution to depicting Mohammed. If they object to a actor playing him why not have him portrayed by a cartoon?

MaryJ said...

This movie will be a big fat flop in the West, just like Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" from a few years ago, which propagated an Islam-biased view of the Crusades.

Hollywood just doesn't learn. No one wants to see their propaganda-disquised-as-entertainment anymore.

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

In my opinion Islam is basically an ideology of Arab cultural imperialism. For this reason I generally have a negative opinion of Islam although I know many Muslims who are cool (i.e. the secular ones).

Here are some of what I consider the imperialist aspects of Islam:

1. Bowing 5 times in the direction of Mecca

2. The fact that Islamic religious training is conducted in Arabic and most Islamic worship is also conducted in Arabic

3. Arab muslims look down on Muslims who are not Arabs

4. The adoption of Arabic names by non-Arabic Muslims

I honestly don't know why Pashtuns, Pakistanis, Persians and other Non-Arabs are so devoted to Islam when a lot Islamic practices spit upon non-Arabic culture and peoples.

TGGP said...

jarrett, how about on a Koran instead?

Fred said...

"Are you suggesting you want a movie about Mohammed that energizes a billion Muslims while offending Zionists?"

Sure, why not.

"1. Bowing 5 times in the direction of Mecca

2. The fact that Islamic religious training is conducted in Arabic and most Islamic worship is also conducted in Arabic

3. Arab muslims look down on Muslims who are not Arabs

4. The adoption of Arabic names by non-Arabic Muslims"


Doesn't Roman Catholicism do something similar with respect to 2. and 4.?

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

Fred,

I'm not Catholic so I would not know for certain.

However I did attend a few Catholic services with a friend and they were in English. I'm not even sure what you're talking about in terms of taking on Catholic names.

Anonymous said...

2 - Not anymore. Over 99% of churches use the vernacular exclusively. A large amount of dioceses have no parishes who use Latin.

4 - Yes, somewhat; but it's not universal. A lot of Catholic parents don't bother to name their children traditionally (i.e. saints' names) anymore.

Anonymous said...

Aren't these like Whiskey's favorite topics - Hollywood and Muslims?

JoeShipman said...

I would like to see a "History of Civilization" TV miniseries produced in which the rise of Muhammad gets the appropriate 10 minutes of Episode 4, and in which only perfectly well-etablished historical facts involving no disputed or offensive behavior by Muhammad are shown, but Muhammad is portrayed by a real actor and speaks a couple of historically accurate lines. Furthermore, I hope the existence of that scene is successfully concealed from any Muslim fanatics or TV censors until episode 4 actually airs.

If that ever happened, the results would be instructive and edifying.

Anonymous said...

jarrett:
Still waiting for Larry David to piss on a portrait of Muhammad....

The religion of piss?

rob said...

Fred, why they protest Dune? In Dune, they won.

Simon Oliver Lockwood said...

#4: Even when parents use Saint's names for their children they're the local language's version of those names: e.g. Pablo v. Paul v. Pawel, John v. Juan v. Johann v. Jan v. Janusz, etc.

David said...

Anon said

> Aren't these like Whiskey's favorite topics - Hollywood and Muslims? <

Nope. Those would be suitcase nukes and female perfidy.

David said...

Make an anti-Islam satire movie and pass it around privately for yuks not bucks. No need to have it play at your local chain. Could spread like wildfire outside the system and anonymously.

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

One more thing I've always found curious. Why is it that Islam seems to be most popular in desert regions? (North Africa, Arabia, Central Asia). Basically everywhere except the American Southwest, Northern Mexico, the Kalahari and the Australian Outback.

Anonymous said...

Pissed Off Chinaman
Why is it that Islam seems to be most popular in desert regions?

It's also popular in SE Asia (Indonesia=biggest muslim population).
initially Arabs fought better in desert environments ,maybe other people living in deserts were more inclined to accept a religion like Islam

At its origin Islam was just the Arab version of the monotheistic faiths (Christianity and Judaism). Although initially it tried to change some of the Arab traditions, Arab tribal culture was just too entrenched. Agree with greenrivervalleyman in that sense.
A lot of what people see as Islamic practices are actually more related to Arab tribal culture than to the religion itself but in a sense the 2 are difficult to separate