Ridley Scott’s Exodus has been banned in Egypt after the country’s head of censorship objected to a number of “historical inaccuracies” in the epic Biblical tale.
Deadline first reported weeks ago that Fox’s revisionist take on Moses and his flight from Egypt would struggle to get past censors in the country, where it is generally prohibited to depict prophets and religious figures. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, for example, was banned earlier this year after Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest religious authority in Sunni Islam, criticized Aronofsky’s film. Now Scott’s film has come in for a bashing from head of the Egyptian state censorship board, Abdul Sattar Fathi.
In comments to local reporters, Fathi criticized the film’s veracity.
“One of the key historical mistakes made by this film is that it claims the Jews were the ones who built the Pyramids,” Fathi was quoted as saying. “The film treats Moses as an army general, not as a prophet. Furthermore, it shows ancient Egyptians as a mob group persecuting peaceful Jews. Our board has refused this out of respect for Egyptians’ feelings.”
There had been hope that Exodus would evade the fate of Noah and The Da Vinci Code, the latter also banned after criticism from Egypt’s sizable Coptic Christian community.
Egypt’s minister of culture Gaber Asfour had initially led a charge to ensure the film would be released in Egyptian cinemas despite the expected objections from religious authorities. A well-respected critic and professor of Arabic literature, Asfour was appointed minister in June this year. He had previously served as culture minister for one week during the 2011 Egyptian revolution before resigning on health grounds.
It appears that Asfour has himself turned against the film. In an interview, Asfour was quoted as saying Exodus “totally contradicts proven historical facts,” and “gives a Zionist view of history and contains historical inaccuracies and that’s why we have decided to ban it.”
One local exhibitor confirmed to Deadline that the film would not now be released in Egypt. Elsewhere, the pic has grossed another $3M+ on Christmas Day domestically for a gross in the mid-40M range since its release December 12, and its overseas cume heading into the holiday frame was $61.9M from 38 territories. Fox handles most international rights.
Exodus‘ fate in other Arab countries appears equally uncertain. In Morocco, for example, where parts of the film were actually shot, there are reports the film’s release has also been blocked despite the state-run Moroccan Cinema Centre officially approving it. It also remains to be seen if the film will get past censors in more conservative countries in the Persian Gulf.
Exceptions to the portrayal of prophets have been made on occasion, such as when special laws were introduced in the United Arab Emirates to allow Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ to screen. It is unclear at this stage if Exodus will be granted a similar waiver.