Tehran: Majid Majidi, the award-winning director of Iran's most expensive film ever Muhammad, which premieres on Wednesday in 143 theatres throughout Iran, says he hopes it will improve Islam's 'violent image'. However, the religious epic risks angering many Muslims despite not showing the prophet's face.
The huge production about the childhood of the prophet cost up to an estimated $40 million and took more than seven years to complete. The 171-minute film, which stars many top Iranian actors, opens on Wednesday throughout Iran, the day before it opens the Montreal Film Festival.
Speaking to the media in Tehran, its director Majid Majidi, 56, said extremists and jihadists such as the Islamic State group "have stolen the name of Islam". In the Western world, "an incorrect interpretation of Islam has emerged that shows a violent image of Islam, and we believe it has no link whatsoever" to the religion, he said.
Muhammad is the first part of a trilogy on the life of the prophet. The film depicts events before his birth and up to his teenage years, before he became prophet, which according to the Koran was at the age of 40.
While Iran has denounced cartoons of the prophet like those published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Shiite Muslims are generally more relaxed than Sunnis about depictions of religious figures.
While many planned screenings of Muhammad in Shiite-majority Iran have already sold out, in the Sunni Muslim world the production has triggered controversy.
"Definitely, some countries like Saudi Arabia will have problems with this film but many Islamic countries -- including Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and many others in Southeast Asia -- have asked for the film," Majidi said.
The first major production about the prophet's life, Mohammad, Messenger of God from Syrian-American filmmaker Moustapha Akkad, also drew criticism in the Muslim world when it was released in 1976.
Watch the trailer of Majid Majidi's new film Muhammad here: