The Message conveys the history of the rise of one of the largest religions in the world and the filmmakers were able remain historically accurate and respectful. At the beginning of the film there was a short message that stated multiple Islamic scholars had approved the accuracy of the film. Not only does that statement establish the trustworthiness of the film and those who created it but also demonstrates respect. Another way The Message respects and follows the beliefs of Islam is by never depicting Muhammad. Instead, other key characters relay Muhammad’s words or with some clever camera angles his presence is implied.
The majority of biopics that I have seen in the past have focused on shaping the viewers perspective of the individual or subject matter in a specific way. For example, in the movie Sully, about the pilot who landed the plane on the Hudson River a few years ago, the filmmaker’s focus on making Sully seem like a hero. In contrast The Message is solely an informational film, there is no underlying message about the Islamic religion. The film seeks to only relay the events of the past, and convey some of the key principles of Islam instead of imply anything about any individual who practices Islam today. The only principle of Islam that is heavily emphasized particually near the end of the film is the concept that Islam respects the beliefs of Jews and Christians. I found this surprising considering that especially over the last decade there has been a negative connotation surrounding Islam in America. The Message seems like a progressive film considering it was created in the late 1970’s.
Who is the intended audience of this film? The entire film is spoken in English and most of the actors have European or slight American accents. One must assume this film was created solely for an English-speaking audience. After reflecting on the intended audience the short message at the beginning of the film makes more sense simply because the only exposure to any form of Islamic culture that the average American would have is children’s films like Aladdin and whatever articles were in the news paper. Needless to say these sources would not focus on realism.
One element that shocked me about The Message was how violent and bloody sections were. If anything the violence serves to reinforce the accuracy of the film and create sympathy for the early followers of Muhammad. Overall I found the film informative and un-bias based off of my limited knowledge of Islam. After completing the readings for class today though it made me wonder how Islamic scholars felt about the use of film since it depicts life realistically. If I understood the reading correctly Islamic artwork does not attempt to copy life realistically unlike Western artwork. The filmmakers were not followers of Islam though. This is a topic I definably want to explore more in class.