You'd Do Well To Hear This "Message" Review

“At one time or another, all religions were rebellions.” There are some truly memorable lines in 1977’s The Message from Arabic Muslim producer/director Moustapha Akkad, who would perhaps be best known, strangely enough, for producing all the Halloween movies. An epic three-hour saga on the founding of Islam, the picture’s instructive merit seems more needed than ever as many Westerners feign or strive to understand one of the world’s most complicated regions. To those that would seek to know more, this message is worth listening to.

“He storms hearts, not doors. It’s a permanent victory.” The movie was made in accordance with Islamic law, and, as such, Mohammed is neither seen nor heard throughout his own biopic. In a film charting the rise of the Prophet, this means focus shifts to other characters, such as his Uncle Hamza (Anthony Quinn). The idolatry of Mecca, with over 300 gods, and the brutal persecution of slaves cascades into the rallying of a new faith, their expulsion from Mecca, the construction of the first mosque in Medina, the subsequent battles, and, finally, Mohammed’s peaceful return to Mecca after their surrender.

A broad ensemble epic, the film is effective and informative, but its story is marred by tragedy and abused by time. When financiers backed out, Muammar Gaddafi himself funded the picture, leaving the film tainted by who he became. At the time of its release, it was falsely reported Mohammed would be seen in the film; subsequently, Muslim extremists took hostages in Washington, D.C., resulting in numerous deaths.

On why he wanted to make it, Akkad referred to the bridge he wanted to create and understanding he wanted to foster between the West and Islam, even going so far as to shoot the film with two casts in both English and Arabic. Tragically, our country defaults too easily and quickly to equating Muslims with terrorists, a stigma against fundamentalists that does no justice to the majority of its peaceful followers. Some thirty-six years later, the movie is a lesson we all need, if only to realize how similar we all are.

“I cannot put souls into chains without hearing them.”

"The Message: The Story of Islam" is on sale November 12, 2013 and is rated PG. Drama, Education, War. Directed by Moustapha Akkad. Written by H.A.L. Craig, Tewfik El-Hakim, A.B. Jawdat El-Sahhar, A.B. Rahman El-Sharkawi, Mohammad Ali Maher. Starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Pappas.

Kyle North • Staff Writer


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