East Meets West: The Prophet Muhammad in a 17th century Ottoman copy of an early 14th century image from northwestern Iran or northern Iraq. Note the saintly halos, a reflection of Christian Byzantine influence. These days, East and West are about to influence each other by way of Hollywood. (Reproduction from the Bibliothèque nationale de France / virtual exhibits)
Bahrain last year held its first human rights film festival. Dubai has been holding film festivals since 2004. Abu Dhabi has a couple, and if you look hard enough in Jeddah, in puritan Saudi Arabia, film festivals are held there, too, albeit not too successfully.
Not to be outdone, Qatar this year--last week, to be precise--held its first Tribeca Film Festival in Doha, with Robert DeNiro (Tribeca's co-founder) and 31 movies headlining the launch.
The biggest surprise: Qatari investment company Al Noor Holdings' decision to plunk down $150 million for a feature film about the Prophet Muhammad, to be produced by Barrie Osborne, the producer of "The Matrix," the Lord of the Rings series, the violence fest known as "Face/Off" and the delightfully cartoonish "Dick Tracy."
Osborne had Keanu Reeves play the messiah in The Matrix. Reeves isn't about to be Muhammad: Word has it the Muhammad flick will follow the Islamic (though not Koranic) precept against showing the likeness of Muhammad or even his immediate family (no Julia Roberts in the role of Aisha). So it'll be an interesting creative challenge for whoever directs the flick. How to show Muhammad's lives and wives without showing him or them.
It'll also be cause, I hope, for an interesting debate about that rather silly tradition that prohibits depictions of the Prophet (and engenders all sorts of more than silly conflicts and often bloody over it). And it should be cause for debate over the producers' agreement, if there is such an agreement, to subordinate artistic license to religious edict. The artistic work is compromised before it's even begun.
- Muhammad Cartoons Book Censors the Cartoons
- Muhammad Cartoons Controversy Complete Images
- The Muhammad Cartoons Controversy
- Images and the Prophet Muhammad: What the Koran Says