Cineworld Pulls ‘Blasphemous’ Movie ‘The Lady Of Heaven’ Over Protests


“The Lady of Heaven” executive producer Malik Shlibak has voiced his disappointment over Cineworld’s decision to pull his film from UK cinemas following protests.

The first-time feature producer, who is also chairman of the non-profit organization The Rafida Foundation, told Variety he is “very, very disappointed” by the decision, adding: “This is sending a creative message to any group or groups like this that any time you have any slight mild offense feel free to demand everyone to cave into your way of thinking. ”

The film was made by UK-based Enlightened Kingdom, where Shlibak is a company director, and sold at the Cannes Marché du Film last year by sales agent Hannibal Pictures. The response at Cannes was “overwhelmingly positive,” Shlibak told Variety. “It was very much welcomed by Muslims, non Muslims, all sorts of people over there in Cannes.”

“The Enlightened Kingdom will fight this battle in terms of standing up for our rights as film producers and for the rights of the public to see the film and for freedom of speech in general,” Shlibak said.

Mooky Greidinger’s Cineworld – which operates Regal Cinemas in the US and Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas in the UK – this week pulled “The Lady of Heaven,” a story about the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s daughter Lady Fatima, following protests by Muslim groups.

“Due to recent incidents related to screenings of ‘The Lady of Heaven,’ we have made the decision to cancel upcoming screenings of the film nationwide to ensure the safety of our staff and customers,” a spokesperson from Cineworld said. Variety.

Over 100 people attended a demonstration outside the Bolton Cineworld on Sunday to protest a screening of the movie, according to The Bolton News. A Twitter account called 5Pillars also posted a photograph of a protest said to have taken place outside a Cineworld in Birmingham on Sunday, which they claimed 200 people attended.

Meanwhile, a petition on Change.org titled “Remove The Lady of Heaven from UK cinemas” [sic] has so far garnered over 122,000 signatures.

“This film has been created to cause a heartache for all Muslims as well as spread false information on Islam,” reads the petition. “The film directly disrespects Prophet Muhammad who is portrayed by an actor, deeply shocking and disrespectful to the best of creation. It is also a deeply racist film with all the main negative characters being portrayed by black actors. Furthermore it also portrays the companions of our Prophet Muhammad in a bad manner.

“We demand the cinemas to remove this film from their screens and understand that airing it will cause protests throughout the country and will not be accepted by Muslims,” the petition concludes before linking to a review of the movie titled “pure, unadulterated sectarian filth . ”

“The Lady of Heaven” was directed by Eli King and written by Sheikh Al-Habib. “The heart-wrenching journey of Lady Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad,” reads a synopsis on the Enlightened Kingdom’s website. “Separated by 1400 years, an Iraqi child, in the midst of a war-torn country, learns the importance and power of patience. After losing his mother, the child finds himself in a new home, where a loving grandmother narrates the historical story of The Lady and how her suffering as the first victim of terrorism spun out of control into the 21st century. ”

Under the heading “Creativity Note,” Enlightened Kingdom’s website adds that “in accordance with Islamic tradition, during the making of this film, no individual represented a Holy Personality. The performances of the Holy Personalities were achieved through a unique synthesis of actors, in-camera effects, lighting and visual effects. ”

“There is a depiction of the Prophet but it’s not a human being acting and presenting themselves as the Prophet, which is the more controversial thing, which we’re not doing,” Shlibak said. “It is the case that there are groups of Muslims that find that to be impermissible and not allowed in the religion but there are also many groups of Muslims that are OK with it… There’s been artistic representations of the Prophet across the Middle East for centuries , so it’s not black and white – it’s a gray area. “

Shlibak, who said he has received death threats “for years” over his work, added that while he was disappointed that Cineworld pulled the film, “I’m not feeling negative overall. Actually, the team’s feeling is quite positive because this is a huge marketing push for the film, so I’d like to thank the protesters for that. ”

“The Lady of Heaven” is still being screened by the Vue theater chain.

A spokesperson for Vue told Variety: “Vue takes seriously the responsibilities that come with providing a platform for a wide variety of content and believes in showcasing films of interest to diverse communities across the UK Vue will only show a film once the BBFC (the independent British Board of Film Classification) has assessed and rated a film. ‘The Lady of Heaven’ has been BBFC accredited and is on show in a number of our cinemas. Decisions about how long a film remains on the show are taken on a site-by-site basis and based on a variety of commercial and operational factors. ”




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