Various news sites are reporting that Morocco and Egypt have banned the film. This apparently came as a surprise in Morocco, as the authorities in question had previously been okay with the film. The Egyptian ban was reportedly prompted in part by the film’s anachronistic suggestion that Jews built the pyramids.
The film may have been withheld in other countries too. According to the official list of international release dates, the film should have opened in a number of Muslim countries yesterday, but websites listing movie showtimes in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates currently say nothing about Exodus.
The film was also scheduled to open in Indonesia and Malaysia two weeks ago, but there are currently no showings listed in those countries either. So either the film never opened there, or it came and left really quickly.
The film is, however, showing in Turkey.
Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Exodus is permitted in China, which is currently not on the international release schedule. Noah was banned there earlier this year because it was deemed to have too much religious content.
December 27 update: The United Arab Emirates have banned the film, too.
December 28 update: Variety reports that one theatre in Morocco kept showing the film until Friday, when it got written notice that the film had been banned:
Marrakech’s Colisee Cinema, the last remaining theater in Morocco to continue to screen “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” pulled Ridley Scott’s film over the weekend. Reported reason: The film’s representation of God in the form of a boy. . . .
“I deplore this censorship,” Benkirane said in a statement reported by Agence France-Presse. “The last screening was on Friday night at 21.30. I respect the decision of the CCM board,” she continued, adding, however, that she did not agree with it. “The child through whom Moses receives the revelation in the film at no time says he is God,” she said, noting that such a film ban is “very, very rare” in Morocco.
The film is actually somewhat ambiguous on the question of whether the boy is or is not God — but it’s an ambiguity that goes back to the Bible. When Moses asks the boy who he is, the boy replies, “I AM,” which is one of the biblical names for God. But Moses also calls the boy a “messenger”, and the Hebrew word for “messenger” can also mean “angel”. I don’t know how the Koran deals with this, though.
December 30 update: Doha News reports that Qatar has banned the film, though the theatre owners quoted there said they were not given a reason for the ban.
December 31 update: The Associated Press reports that politicians and filmmakers are protesting the censors’ decision in Morocco, which has a thriving film industry.
January 7 update: The Associated Press reports that the film will be available in Morocco again now that the producers have removed “two audio passages that alluded to the personification of the Divine.” The Hollywood Reporter quotes a statement from the Moroccan Cinematography Center to that effect, too.