After a 42-year ban in MENA territories, Moustapha Akkads The Message will have a wide theatrical release in the region including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The film will release over the Eid al-Fitr weekend starting from June 14, 2018. The Oscar-nominated film from Producer/Director Moustapha Akkad chronicles the life and times of Prophet Muhammad […]
After a 42-year ban in MENA territories, Moustapha Akkads The Message will have a wide theatrical release in the region including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The film will release over the Eid al-Fitr weekend starting from June 14, 2018.
The Oscar-nominated film from Producer/Director Moustapha Akkad chronicles the life and times of Prophet Muhammad and serves as an introduction to early Islamic history.
After a successful DIFF premiere in December 2017, Malek Akkad of Trancas International and Front Row Filmed Entertainments Managing Director, Gianluca Chakra spearheaded a reportedly difficult campaign to secure a wide theatrical release across the entire region. Chakra and Akkad pressed the issue to censor boards in the GCC, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon and Ethiopia with only Kuwait banning the film. However, in light of the approval from Saudi Arabia the film has been resubmitted in Kuwait in the hope the initial decision will be revoked.
Front Row Filmed Entertainment will be handling distribution across all pay TV and free TV platforms for The Message.
In conversation with BroadcastPro ME, Malek Akkad recounts the painstaking process of 4K restoration that he describes as a labour of love.
The region-wide release must be personally satisfying after the two-year process of restoring the two versions of the movie digitally in 4K.
Malek Akkad: I moved back and forth from current projects that I was producing for Trancas International to overseeing the restoration of the two films. It was an expensive process to undertake but I happily paid for it knowing I was preserving my father’s work. With releases slated in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and now Saudi Arabia, the film is getting a much wider release than it ever has. We are also hoping for a release in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. I am hoping for a release in Europe later this fall including some cities in the USA.
Describe to us the challenges you faced working towards ensuring pristine sound and visuals in 4K for The Message.
The process of working on the visuals in terms of making them look vibrant, was pretty straightforward. With sound we have come a long way from Dolby Stereo the film was originally recorded in. We now have 7.1 surround sound and we have a lot of scope in terms of enhancing sound. For instance, with a battle scene, you can now have horses riding from the far right speaker all the way to the other side. From the whoosh and thud of weapons to other scenes in the movie, new sound designing technology allows you to greatly improve the experience of the movie.
As a 10-year-old you spent time with your father on the sets of his other epic film Lion of the Desert on the life of Libyan tribal leader Omar Mukhtar. How was it for you revisiting The Message after so many years?
I was in Libya with him and I recall him being so patient with me in the midst of a busy film shoot. Restoring both versions of The Message did mean long hours spent in dark studios watching every frame, but it was a labour of love. I saw new aspects of my fathers creative work. It was a beautiful process. I think I am more intimate with these films than anybody other than him. Looking ahead, I am definitely going to do a 4k restoration for Lion of the Desert. The 40th anniversary of that film will be in 2021.
The two versions of The Message are each around three hours in duration. Explain to us the scale of the restoration and the overall workflow you followed.
Celluloid still remains the highest resolution we have. There are films that were shot in 1910 that are still in excellent in quality.
The good news at the outset of this process for us was that the negatives for The Message were in good shape barring a couple of scratched frames that we had to go over and repair digitally. The process was painstaking nevertheless. You are talking of 44 frames a second. This process of checking each frame was outsourced. With a lot of different eyes, I believe every frame was studied in detail for any flaw after the initial 4K scan of every frame.
While sound design and mixing was done in Hollywood, colour grading was done in London. Since the original film was in good shape, we did not have to do too much.
Your father created two epic films about the region and presented it on a global stage. What do you believe Arab filmmakers need to do to ensure their films travel internationally?
The problem, as I see it, is the language because in the USA especially, and some parts of Europe, audiences are not willing to watch a dubbed movie. When my father did The Message he created two versions because Arabic is the language of the Quran and it was for the Middle East, but he also wanted the film to travel and be shown in international theatres.
While Lion of the Desert was shot in English, he had it dubbed in Arabic. Filmmakers in the region are doing amazing work and it would be nice to see some of these stories in English.
Facing backlash from both Hollywood and the conservative circles in the Arab world, your father faced monumental difficulties making this film. Trouble for The Message started in the first phases of shooting and production as the crew was forced to move the set from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, and into Morocco. This reportedly exacerbated the budget. On its completion, the film faced backlash when it was erroneously thought that the image of the Prophet was portrayed on screen, culminating in the film being pulled off theatres or outright bans. How do you think your father would have reacted to the lifting of the ban across the region?
I am happy that the film is being shown in countries where it was banned during the original release. My father was a very forward progressive thinker – a French educated person from Syria, who attended the American University and spoke three languages. He saw himself as cosmopolitan person.
My father didnt have the chance to see the region-wide release of the film fulfilled in his lifetime, but I know he would have been very proud. This is a tribute to him. He wanted to share his love of this culture and the important lessons of Islam and The Message with everyone. Now, in a time when the world needs it most, his dream will come alive.