Darren Aronofsky’s take on the biblical story of Noah opens this week (March 28th) in the United States and has already opened in several international territories, but Variety reports that there’s one place the film will not be granted a theatrical release – Indonesia. While this marks the first Asian country to bar screening the film commercially, other Middle Eastern countries like Qater, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have similarly refused to open the Russell Crowe feature.
The act of banning certain films in certain parts of the world is a practice that is nearly as old as the medium itself. Sometimes it’s a question of content; other times, it’s politically motivated or a signal for particular sensitivities within a given region – for example the same country barred James Cameron’s 1994 film True Lies because it featured Muslims as terrorists. With Noah, the matters are religiously motivated. Indonesia is the most densely populated Muslim country in the world and with the Indonesian Censorship Board’s unanimous decision to bar the film a commercial release, board member Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi stated the response was out of a society “which highly respects religion and the value of unity.”
Noah has sparked conversation and controversy throughout the world as the film has been slowly unveiled, earning mixed reviews in the process for the expensive tale that marks a clear shift in direction for Aronofsky, who made a name for himself with provocative indies like Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000) and the Oscar-winning sensation Black Swan (2010.) On paper, he appeared on odd fit as the captain of a religious epic based on the Noah’s Ark and for a film which distributor Paramount Pictures has aggressively been marketing to the faith-based community.
Star Russell Crowe commented on the controversial shroud that hangs over the film by stating, “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.” And to that end, the Oscar-winning actor has been correct.