Egypt banned Exodus: Gods and Kings on Friday after a censorship board cited its historical inaccuracies.
The $140 million Hollywood movie is based on the Biblical book of Exodus. Christian Bale stars as Moses, the prophet who led Jews as they escaped from Egypt under the Pharaoh Ramses.
The head of the censorship board said Jews building the Pyramids and Moses parting the Red Sea were the inaccuracies. Egypt’s cultural minister, Gaber Asfour, found these portrayals as offensive, according to Agence France-Presse.
Reportedly, Morocco banned distribution of the movie on Thursday right before it was about to premiere in the country’s theaters.
Egypt banned Exodus after Asfour deemed it as a Zionist film. He said, “It gives a Zionist view of history and contains historical inaccuracies and that’s why we have decided to ban it.”
While Asfour declared the ban, the Egypt government hasn’t immediately confirmed this and 20th Century Fox won’t comment.
— ODEON (@ODEONCinemas) December 26, 2014
Egypt and other Arab countries have banned films about religious history before because of a religious prohibition on the depiction of prophets.
Noah, starring Russell Crowe, was banned this year and The Prince of Egypt, about Moses, was banned in 1998.
Though the censorship board insists on the historical inaccuracies, the book of Exodus depicts Jewish slaves building the pyramids. Moses also miraculously parts the Red Sea to free the slaves.
Historically, however, the Pyramids are believed to have been built 1,000 years before the story of Exodus. The Red Sea is also cited as being parted by an earthquake.
Even so, the head of the supreme council for culture, Mohammed Afifi, was against how Exodus portrayed the parting of the Red Sea. The film shows Moses holding a sword instead of a stick, the latter of which is written in the Bible. Afifi was also unhappy that the movie explained the parting as a “tidal phenomenon” rather than a miracle.
Other international critics had qualms with the movie as well. Some Christian groups said the film strayed too much from the Bible. Then Christians and non-Christians have pointed out the problems with western actors playing Middle Eastern characters.
Exodus is a story about real Egyptians. White people playing them changes the story.
— Chakra Khan (@ChaniThaHippie) December 18, 2014
Egypt banning Exodus makes it the second film this month to be involved in an international controversy over its release. The first was The Interview, which was pulled from distribution after a cyberattack and then allowed to premiere in select theaters on Thursday.