Following bans across the Middle East, Indonesian censors have rejected the upcoming film adaptation of the story of Noah’s Ark. Titled Noah, the Hollywood blockbuster recreates the biblical tale of a man chosen by God to save himself, his family, and all of the world’s animals before a flood destroys the Earth.
Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait announced their intention to ban the movie on religious grounds earlier this week, stating that it “violates Islamic law” and encourages “person-worship” over respect for the divine. It comes as little surprise that Noah was subsequently blocked in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
“Almost all Muslim countries have decided to ban the film. We, too, found elements in the story that contradicted the holy book, so we have decided to prohibit the screening of the film,” Paeni Mukhlis, Indonesia’s Censorship Board (LSF) chairman, told The Jakarta Post.
“We are worried that violent protests could occur.”
Mukhlis, when asked what specific parts of Noah challenged the Koran, simply stated: “People can go abroad to watch the film.”
The blanket ban not only blocks the film from theaters, but bars future DVD and digital releases as well.
Noah, which opens on Friday, stars New Zealand-born superstar Russell Crowe as the title character and is directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream). Crowe, notorious for his fiery temper, said he anticipated criticism from Muslim-majority countries.
‘‘When you know that in the Koran Noah is a prophet, and you also know in the Islamic world you’re not supposed to render any artworks or images of a prophet … you know certain countries are going to be banning this film when it comes out, so you understand that,” he said. “[But I’m] amazed at the gall [of] some of these commentators to make these ridiculous assumptions about something they haven’t even seen.”
Crowe met with Pope Francis earlier this week, who gave the film his blessing.
While the Indonesian censors stood behind their decision, many members of the general public condemned it. Social media was abuzz with harsh reactions to the LSF ruling, with some commentators pointing out that soft-core pornography was easier to obtain than the right to watch a big-budget Hollywood production.
“A film that is based on a biblical story can’t be accused of violating, for example, Islamic doctrines,” tweeted Mohamad Guntur Romli, a scholar of the Muslim faith.
Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, approximately ten percent of citizens are Christian.
In the U.S., Paramount – the film’s production company – went to great lengths to win the praise of Christians. Even in a Christian-majority country, some conservatives condemned the film for not following the Bible closely enough.
“The film was made for believers and non-believers,” Aronofsky told Variety. “I’m more concerned about getting non-believers into the theater or people who are less religious.”
Noah cost approximately $130 million to make. The Oscar-winning Crowe is joined by fellow Academy award winners Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins.