CAIRO: The Egyptian censorship board of the Ministry of Culture decided Thursday to ban the Ridley Scott-directed and Christian-Bale starring film “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” citing what the board said were historical and religious “fallacies” in the production, Youm7 reported.
The movie ban was not unexpected for Egypt, as “Exodus” depicts biblical figure Moses, who is considered a prophet in Islam, and conservative Islamic traditions find depictions of prophets in all works of art and media offensive. Earlier this year, the censorship board also banned the film “Noah“—starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky—for the same reason.
Censorship board head Abdul Sattar Fathy said in a statement reported by Mobtada Monday that the movie was refused directly without being previewed by religious authorities at Al-Azhar because the ban was not just about religion. “It contains historical fallacies. That’s why we had to ban it directly without consulting any other entity,” he said. “We don’t need Al-Azhar’s opinion to ban such movies.”
Fathy added that the movie dealt with Moses as if he were a general and not a prophet, “and that’s besides the miracle that happened regarding the sea splitting, which was mentioned in the Holy Quran, and cannot be negotiable.” The film reportedly depicts the parting of the Red Sea in the biblical book of Exodus not as a miracle or act of God, but instead as the result of an earthquake. It also depicts Jewish slaves as having built the Great Sphinx and Pyramids, even though the monuments are widely accepted historically to have been built around 2540 B.C., roughly 500 years before biblical tradition establishes the existence of Hebrew patriarch Abraham.
Film controversial internationally long before Egypt ban
Egypt’s ban on the film for its depiction of religious figures may have been predictable, but the film had already stirred up controversy and allegations of “whitewashing” for its use of Western actors in roles depicting Middle Eastern and North African historical characters.
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, CEO of “Exodus” distributor 21st Century Fox, tweeted in November: “Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.”
His comment was in response to popular social media hashtag #boycottexodusmovie. The hashtag, popular in both the Middle East, Africa and African diaspora communities, was highly critical of black and Middle Eastern roles only being given to servants, slaves and extras in the film.
One particularly popular image in the thread put forth the notion Hollywood would never cast African-American actors like Will Smith and Denzel Washington in the roles of American Presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. In that vein, it insinuated it was ridiculous to think the studio system could cast white actors in Egyptian roles.
In a Q&A with Yahoo published in August however, director Scott dismissed the criticism and said he did in fact take into account race depictions when casting the film. “We cast major actors from different ethnicities to reflect this diversity of culture, from Iranians to Spaniards to Arabs. There are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people, and we had a lot of discussions about how to best represent the culture,” he said.