Movie planned on life of Prophet Mohammad

DUBAI Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:47pm EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - A movie drama about the life of the Prophet Mohammad is to go into production soon, and will be only the second English-language film of its kind ever made, its producers said on Monday.

"The Messenger of Peace" will be a remake of Moustapha Akkad's "The Message," a 1977 Hollywood classic starring Anthony Quinn which is often applauded by Muslims as an example of how commercial Western cinema can respect Islam.

"We have only the utmost respect for Akkad's work but technology in cinema has advanced since the 1970s and this latest project will employ modern film techniques in its renewal of the first film's core messages," producer Oscar Zoghbi, who worked on the original, said in a statement.

Akkad, the Syrian-born executive producer of Hollywood's "Halloween" horror films, was killed in a suicide bomb attack by al Qaeda on a luxury hotel in Jordan's capital Amman in 2005.

In the original "Message," the Prophet and his companions were heard speaking off-camera but never directly shown, in accordance with Muslim conventions forbidding their visual depiction.

Portrayals of Mohammad have triggered anger in recent years. Danish cartoons of him ignited protests, some deadly, by Muslims in many countries in 2006. The offices of a British publisher were attacked in September over a novel about the Prophet's child bride.

"In the 21st century there is a real need for a film that emotionally engages audiences on the journey that led to the birth of Islam," the statement quoted the film's scriptwriter Ramsey Thomas as saying.

A spokesman for the producers said in an email to Reuters that details of the funding and production of the planned film would be released "in due course."

The events of the Prophet's life took place mainly in Mecca and Medina, Islamic holy cities in modern Saudi Arabia.

(Writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by Andrew Roche)

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