By: Trevor Groschen
Final Media Project
Banning of the movie Noah
Noah, in Islam, is considered to be a prophet or an apostle to God. It is believed through the teachings of the Quran that Noah’s mission was to save a world that was full of depravity and sin. God gave Noah the responsibility of preaching to people to make them abandon idolatry and to worship only God. Even though Noah did all he could people refused to change their wicked ways, leading to his building of the Ark to protect good from the great flood in which all the evil people of his time perished. These are the basics of the story that stay concrete through several different interpretations of the story, it is in the details which great debate and controversy arise. This brings me to the point of this paper, there was a film that was just produced by Darren Aronofsky titled Noah where the movie is based off of the story of Noah’s Ark found in three religions Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Aronofsky’s interpretations of this story have conflicted with many Muslims across the world who practice Islam. As a result the countries of these Muslims have banned the movie for three reasons that include, it depicts the prophet Noah which is against Islamic religion, it conflicts with the story of Noah’s ark as stated in the Quran, and it might cause turmoil and upheaval for Islamic nations because it may be offensive so the government steps in with the ban to stop potential riots.
According to the Quran it isn’t forbidden to have depictions of Muslim prophets, but there are some key issues within the religion that in a way prevent people from using visuals to represent their prophets. Although there is no proof that depictions are forbidden in the Quran there are Hadiths that suggest that depictions shouldn’t be made because it could cause a sense of false idolatry. An article from The Inside Muslim suggests this idea isn’t concrete in the Islamic world, for instance the Sunni Muslims believe that no images of the prophet should exist because they don’t know for sure what he looks like and they don’t want to worship a false God. But in the Shia Muslim community it has been made quite common for the people there to have images and depictions of the prophet. Although this is becoming more common in their communities, there is still much conflict and controversy over what the prophet looks like. All this background information on the banning of prophet depiction helps me explain why the movie Noah has been banned in several Islamic countries. According to the Quran Noah is considered the last prophet, and his job was to preach to all the wicked people and save them from being destroyed by Gods great flood. It is obvious that the director of the movie Noah Darren Aronofsky violated this Islamic tradition/law of not depicting a prophet falsely. That is why countries have been banning this movie nationwide, and historically this is why other movies and books have been banned as well. Morgan Lee, a reporter for The Christian Post said specifically in the country of Malaysia “The film ‘Noah’ is not allowed to be screened in this country to protect the sensitivity and harmony in Malaysia’s multiracial and multi-religious community, and in the past other movies have been banned for the same reason.” As one can see the movie obviously depicts the prophet Noah and according to Lee it’s just too sensitive of a topic to be airing the movie in Islamic countries. Along with the prophet being depicted the movie was banned for other reasons as well.
Another reason the movie Noah has been banned in several Islamic countries is because the director’s interpretations of the story don’t line up with what Muslims have interpreted out of the Quran. Darren Aronofsky the director of the film says that he knew that his movie would upset people because of the sensitivity of the story, and the depictions of the prophet. He states in an interview, “We set out very purposefully to upset expectations and change expectations people had about this story.” He also had this to say to explain why he made the movie the way he did, “We had expectations when we came to it and I, we read Genesis as kids and young adults—but what we had in our minds was a Playmobil ark and as for animals, pet stores. And that’s the way the Noah story has gone into the pop consciousness. It’s a very, very, very different story than what we saw when we opened Genesis again as middle-aged men.” Now this is a lot of quote but one must understand the directors thought process to understand why he made the movie so controversial. Overall his interpretations of the story have not lined up with what the Quran says, so if the movie was to air in Muslim community’s people would become very upset and maybe turn to violence. That is why the movie has been banned and this brings me to my next point in the paper.
The last reason why the movie was banned is because of the country trying to protect itself. Muslims who practice Islam have had a history of being pretty passionate about defending their beliefs and traditions. There have been several riots in protest to Muhammad being depicted in western TV shows and movies. And the aftermath of the riots have been damages to property, building, cars, and people. When the movie Noah came out countries realized the potential for another riot based on the other two reasons that were stated earlier in this paper and decided to ban the movie to prevent anything from happening. Writer Donna Bowater had an interview with the actor who played Noah in the film and she writes that Actor Russell Crowe has said his epic film Noah is not a “Sunday school story” and will challenge viewers’ understanding of the Bible. The Australian star said his movie would provoke discussions regardless of faith. The question to consider is why would the producer and the director make such a controversial movie? Looking at this interview with Russell Crowe and the interview with the director that I referenced earlier it is clear that they had the intentions of stirring up debates. They wanted to cause controversy and to get people’s attention and I believe that what the director said in his interview sums it up the best. He says he did it “to get people to grapple with it and to see it fresh, we wanted to break expectations. Some of them we wanted to break that are just incorrect—like the idea of what the ark looked like. It was purposeful.” This challenging that is done by the movie, is the reason countries have banned the film because they are worried that Muslims will be offended and start to riot and protest.
In the end, all people are going to have their different opinions on things, and sometimes they are more dramatic and sometimes they can be less. The countries that chose to ban the movie Noah had their opinions on the movie and they decided to go through with the ban for three reason, they wanted to stop a potential protest/riot, the movie doesn’t agree with the interpretations of the Quran, and the movie depicts the prophet Noah which is against their beliefs. Overall, the banning of movies and books have taken place worldwide and it all depends on how things are interpreted.
Question Answer with the director
Why it’s banned in Islamic countries
Question and Answer with Russell Crowe
Review of the movie and a film summary
Who is Noah
Depictions of the Prophet