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  3. Cinema, Sacred History and the State
Vortrag, Vortragsreihe

Cinema, Sacred History and the State

Vortrag von Nacim Pak-Shiraz (University of Edinburgh)

The representation of religious figures in Islam has become particularly controversial in recent years. The creation of religious films is, therefore, a highly sensitive undertaking, evident in the very small number of such films produced by Muslim countries. This paper will examine Muhammad: The Messenger of God (2015) directed by Majid Majidi, one of Iran’s internationally acclaimed filmmakers.

Muhammad is a significant development not only in the history of representations of the Prophet but also in the genre of religious epics. Drawing from extensive fieldwork in Iran, this paper will study the film’s claims of being an authentic narrative of the Prophet. The filmmakers are at pains to highlight their achievements both in identifying and discarding venerated folklore, as well as shedding new light into the story of Muhammad. More importantly, however, this case study allows us to examine the interactions of the state with the medium of film in reconstructing sacred history to pursue a wider political agenda. A twenty-first century retelling of the Prophetic story and the most expensive Iranian film to-date, the film addresses some of the key challenges of Iran in its relations with the west and the rest of the Muslim world. As such, the story of the most sacred figure of Islam is employed not simply to narrate the events of 1400 years ago but to position the righteousness of the Iranian state in relation to both local as well as global audiences.

Professor Nacim Pak-Shiraz is Personal Chair in Cinema and Iran, and Head of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has published in the fields of visual cultures, constructions of masculinity, and the engagement of religion and film. She has authored Shi‘i Islam in Iranian Cinema: Religion and Spirituality in Film (2011& 2018), and edited Visualizing Iran: From Antiquity to Present (2017). Pak-Shiraz has also curated 5 annual film festivals in Edinburgh and been a jury member and presenter at a number of international film festivals in Europe and Asia.

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