"Terrorism, Bombing and Brutality" Nothing To Do With True Islam, Says 'Mohammad' Director

Majid Majidi
Majid Majidi

The Iranian director Majid Majidi, whose film 'Mohammad: Messenger of God' is an Oscar contender, speaks out after Paris attacks.

The director of a controversial Iranian film about the Prophet Mohammad has condemned those who abuse the name of Islam to murder and maim.

Majid Majidi, whose film Mohammad: Messenger of God is Iran's nomination for best foreign language Oscar, says "terrorism, bombing and brutality" have nothing to do with the true faith of Muslims.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter less than a week after 129 people died in coordinated attacks across the French capital, Majidi -- himself subject to a fatwa issued by an Indian Islamic group critical of his movie -- said a key motivation in making the film was to show the world the "true heart of Islam."

"The thing is that in the Islamic world right now -- this terrorism, bombing and brutality -- has nothing to do with Islam. They stole the name of Islam, they took it and are using it, but this is not Islam," Majidi said.

"This movie can help create a new vision of Islam and help improve attitudes about Islam."

Majidi, who is one of Iran's most prolific directors, said he knew he would face challenges when making the film, which cost $40 million, making it Iran's most expensive movie ever.

But his aim was always to craft a film that united, rather than divided the different branches of Islam, he says.

The film is not a historical movie, he insists.

"I tried hard to make this more connected with emotions, with humanity, with the real soul of Islam. I tried to make this movie beautiful and more connected, using special elements, using [Vittorio] Storaro as the cinematorapher -- his work is more like a painting -- to make it more attractive for those with no idea about Islam to make it more connected to people."

Extremists using the name of Islam have nothing to do with the religion at all, he reiterates. "Those radical groups have nothing to do with Islam ... as a Muslim, I believe nowhere is it written in the Koran [about] this brutally and anger of Islam."

His film, he adds, is an attempt to "really try to touch people's hearts."

The film is as important for Muslims as for those in the rest of the world, he says. Made with Iranian government backing, the film - which traces the early life of the Prophet Mohammad - has broken box office records in his country, where four million people have seen it and it is still on wide general release.

The film is careful not to depict the Prophet, which some Muslims regard as blasphemy, but instead is shot from the point of view of Mohammad up until the age of 12.

The European premiere for the film was hosted by Poland's Camerimage Festival on Wednesday night. The festival, which celebrates the art of cinematography, is honoring both Majidi and Storaro with a special award.

No other international screenings are due yet, although Majidi says he is in talks with Turkish distributors and believes it will be shown in that largely Muslim country within the next couple of months.