Maybe a small victory of sorts, for the many who’ve protested the film’s inaccuracies – notably its character depictions rooted in the director’s casting choices …
According to several Egyptian and Moroccan press outlets I read this morning, both countries have banned local cinemas from showing Ridley Scott’s biblical epic movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings” – this happening a day before the Hollywood blockbuster was due to be released in each.
The managers of the Renaissance cinema in Rabat (Morocco) said they were told the ban was nationwide, reported TelQuel magazine, the French-Language weekly Moroccan paper.
Meanwhile, Egyptian censorship board head Abdul Sattar Fathy said, in a released statement (courtesy of Egyptian news portal, Mobtada), that the ban was not just about religion. “It contains historical fallacies,” he said, adding that the movie depicts Moses as if he were a general in an army, instead of a prophet (Moses is considered a prophet in Islam, and conservative Islamic traditions find depictions of prophets in all works of art offensive).
Key, among the many inaccuracies he sites, is the depiction of Jewish slaves as being the builders of the Great Sphinx and Pyramids of Egypt, when the historical monuments are widely accepted to have been built around 2540 B.C., roughly 500 years before biblical tradition establishes the existence of Abraham, who is considered the biological progenitor of the Jews, and the father of Judaism – essentially the first.
As covered previously on this blog, the film had already stirred up controversy here in the USA for its “whitewashing” of the characters and story, employing white western actors to depict Middle Eastern and North African historical characters.
Rupert Murdoch, CEO of “Exodus” distributor 21st Century Fox, tweeted last month: “Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.” And as you’d expect, reaction to his comment was widely rejected and criticized, not just here in the USA, but across the globe, helping to foster the Twitter hashtag #boycottexodusmovie.
And in a Q&A with Yahoo, published in August, director Ridley Scott dismissed the criticism, saying that he did in fact take into account race depictions when casting the film, stating: “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.”
Needless to say, his explanation didn’t go over well either, and was met with even more criticism, fueling the #boycott movement.
Whether or not the boycott had any effect on the film’s domestic box office hasn’t yet entirely been determined; but we do know that, at a reported budget of $140 million (not including marketing costs), it’s made only $42 million of that back, after 2 weeks in release, and doesn’t look like it’ll make much more than that, given how significant the first week or 2 of a film’s release is to overall box office. It’s opening fell well short of other recent Hollywood-backed Biblical films.
It was also reviewed poorly by critics, earning a very weak 29% rating via movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with the overall critical consensus stating that the film “can’t quite live up to its classic source material.”
Outside the USA, it’s earned about $61 million – certainly, none of that coming from Egypt or Morocco. Let’s see if any other countries follow suit, and ban the film as well; or, at least, limit its reach, even if only due to public protest.
It’s worth noting that, earlier this year, the Egyptian censorship board also banned Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” for similar reasons.