Will Muslim Brotherhood be banned at the Box Office?

Egypt unlikely to allow production of controversial movie about life of group founder.

By JOSEPH MAYTON / THE MEDIA LINE NEWS AGENCY
April 6, 2009 14:24
4 minute read.
Will Muslim Brotherhood be banned at the Box Office?

muslim brotherhood founder 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Assassins shot and killed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) founder Hasan Al-Banna, 60 years ago. The silver screen will retell his life's story for all to watch. In what is being seen as a political move by the brotherhood to show their founder's life through the movement's own lens, the Islamic leader will once more be thrust into the consciousness of Egyptians and the world. Thanks to MB Member of Parliament Muhsin Ra'di, the film appears to be coming to fruition after nearly two years of speculation. Ra'di has put forward half the capital for the film to be produced - one of the largest budgets in Egyptian history of some $4 million - and the other half is expected to come from private financing. Tentatively titled "Hasan Al-Banna and an Undiminished Journey," the movie will portray the controversial leader's life beginning in a northern-Egyptian village through to the founding of the Brotherhood in 1928 and his subsequent confrontation with the government and his assassination in 1949. The late Al-Banna's son, Ahmad Seif Al-Islam Hasan Al-Banna, says the film will reflect his father's religious tolerance and the Sufi influence that characterized his early life. Ra'di told the brotherhood's mouthpiece, Ikhwanonline, that the film's scenario was prepared by Dr. Walid Qutb and a team of three others. He is in negotiations with a director for the project after an unnamed director backed out. For its part, the brotherhood's leadership apparatus is not directly involved. "This is a privately-funded project and the Guidance Committee is not having any financial input in the film," Ra'di told The Media Line, although he did say that the movement has a literary right to amend aspects of the project as Al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood are "inseparable." Despite a finalized script and a production schedule announced for this fall, critics and observers are already wondering if the project, now two years in the making, will even be allowed to film, let alone show, in Egypt. The Daily News Egypt's Culture Editor Joseph Fahim is no stranger to the film industry, writing extensively about the country's numerous projects for many years. He tells The Media Line that he is unsure whether production will even be allowed to go ahead in Egypt considering the brotherhood's relationship with the government. "If you think about it, the crew must get all the necessary permits, from the Ministry of Interior and so on in order to even begin to shoot the movie, so that could be a major setback for the film being made," he said. Even before the director begins to tell the actors what is needed, problems could arise. Fahim believes that censorship and the banning of films in Egypt has slowed down in recent years, but a brotherhood film would certainly raise eyebrows among the authorities. "Even if the film is made, it could still face an uphill battle in the country. Remember that a lot of movies are not shown in the country or are censored because of their content. The government does not want to upset groups here," he added. Egypt is no stranger to controversy over film. In July 2006, when the controversial film The Yacoubian Building was released, a number of Egyptian MP's called for the film to be censored. Ironically, it was brotherhood MPs who spoke out in favor of allowing the film to run is. "We are in a critical time where we support the practicing of all freedoms of expression. We are suffering from repression in a closed society, and calling for omission or banning would be a road to confusion," brotherhood MP Hamdi Hasan said at the time. Over 100 Egyptian MP's called for a committee to be established to decide what would be cut. The Yacoubian Building was based on a book by 'Alaa Al-Aswani, which depicts a fictitious story based on people living in downtown Cairo's real Yacoubian building. The book, by the Cairo dentist, was an instant best-seller across the Arab world. Despite the popularity of the film, its outward depiction of homosexuality created a divide among Egyptians and members of Parliament. The film was the most expensive movie ever produced in Egypt and rewrote box-office records. Only two months earlier, the international blockbuster The Da Vinci Code was banned from Egypt because of its content. Coptic Christians - who make up approximately 10 percent of the country's 80 million people - complained that the film was "blasphemous" concerning the true history of Jesus Christ. The book version has only recently - almost three years later - been available at Egypt's myriad bookstores. There is an Arabic translation readily available as well. The film is a fictional portrayal that speculates Jesus did not die on the cross, but instead married Mary Magdalene and that their descendants exist in secret up to this day. Following a murder in the Louvre, the story takes the viewer on a whirlwind tour through ancient secrets that unfold to reveal that Christ's heirs still survive. It is an entirely fictional account of writer Dan Brown's imagination about what could have happened. Throughout Egypt's history, a number of films have been banned from showing in the North-African nation's theaters, including The Ten Commandments, which was partially filmed in Egypt It was banned shortly after its 1956 release due to accusations it was Zionist propaganda. It is still banned today. In 1997, The Devil's Advocate made a brief appearance on the big screens, only to be banned soon thereafter. The final speech of Al Pacino's character, Satan, was originally screened without Arabic subtitles, but that did not stop the censors from cracking down. The questions remain for "Hassan Al-Banna and an Undiminished Journey". Will it be given a stage to be filmed film and subsequently screen in Egypt, despite its Egyptian origins and financing? These are questions that will soon have answers. Hasan Al-Banna's legacy in Egypt is strong, but will the government allow its greatest adversary voice the story of their leader?

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