Muhammad: Messenger of God–Iran’s Submission for the Foreign Language Film Oscar

Iran has selected Muhammad: The Messenger of God, the controversial film about the birth and rise of Islam directed by Majid Majidi as its entry for the foreign-language Oscar Award.

The most expensive Iranian movie ever made, the $40 million epic, shot by Oscar-winner Vittorio Storaro and with a score by Indian Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman, Muhammad stirred controversy among groups angered about its depiction of God.

The partly government-financed “Muhammad” is currently playing on more than half of Iran’s 320 screens after opening the Montreal Film Fest on August 27.

Box office receipts have reportedly hit over 70 billion Iranian Rials, about $2 million, in one month, according to the government-controlled Tehran Times.

The issue that Muslims are not allowed to depict God in images caused concern in Iran during the seven year gestation of the religious blockbuster, which depicts the future prophet from birth through the age of twelve.

Majidi respects Islamic convention by never showing Muhammad’s face, shooting him mostly from the back.  The director has said that through the biopic he aimed to remove the “violent image” of Islam created by jihadist groups.

Majidi previously scored Iran’s first Oscar nomination in 1998, when his Children of Heaven was nominated in the foreign-language category.

Iran won its first Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, in 2012.