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Morocco's banning of Exodus film causes controversy

2015-01-03 10:00

Rabat - Ridley Scott's biblical epic Exodus has been banned in Morocco, provoking an angry response by politicians and filmmakers in this North African country.

Morocco's film commission sent a letter to all cinemas on Saturday, saying the film, which tells the story of Moses, has been banned for possibly portraying God in one scene. Morocco is a mostly Muslim country and Islam forbids displaying images of God.

The movie has already been banned in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

However, a party in Morocco's governing coalition has criticized the ban as "incomprehensible," especially to a film industry that is important to the country. Morocco is a major destination for foreign movies.

"There should have been a more intelligent handling of this affair in a way that didn't damage the image of the kingdom and preserves the freedom of creation and art," the Progressive Socialist Party said in a statement that appeared in the press on Wednesday.

Morocco's governing coalition is led by an Islamist party, though most power resides with the king.

The country's organisation of filmmakers also criticized the ban, calling it "ridiculous and irrational".

"This decision risks discouraging film investment in our country and sending foreign productions to other destinations," Abderrahman Tazi, the group's chief, said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The Moroccan Cinema Commission's decision to ban Exodus involved a scene in which a child, which could be interpreted as representing God, speaks to Moses.

The commission had originally authorized the film, but its leader, Sarim Fassi-Fihri, said a representative of the Communications Ministry had objections. After a second viewing, the panel banned the movie.

"We are not like Egypt or the Emirates, who say the history in the film is distorted. We respect film for what it is, fiction, a vision of a director," he told The Associated Press.

"The problem is the appearance of God in the film as a young child."

Minister of Communication Mustapha Khalfi confirmed that his ministry had first raised objections to the film.

"All members of the commission made this decision, and it has nothing to do with the freedom of expression," he told AP.

Morocco is a popular destination for foreign productions, including the Mission Impossible 5 film this year and the popular miniseries The Bible. Fassi-Fihri said he had been in touch with Fox studios to explain the decision.

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