Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 January 2020

'Messiah': Jordan’s Royal Film Commission urges Netflix not to stream TV series in the country

The organisation says the series, partly filmed in the kingdom, 'could be perceived as infringing on the sanctity of religion'

Mehdi Dehbiplays the titular role in Netflix series 'Messiah'. Courtesy Netflix
Mehdi Dehbiplays the titular role in Netflix series 'Messiah'. Courtesy Netflix

It was filmed in part in Jordan, but the kingdom's Royal Film Commission doesn't want Messiah to see the light of day in the country.

The government organisation has urged Netflix to withhold the show from its local platform. However, the series was released on the streaming service in Jordan and the rest of the world on Wednesday, January 1.

"Having been made aware of [Messiah's] content, the RFC has asked officially the management of Netflix to refrain from streaming it in Jordan," a statement from the organisation said.

The RFC, led by managing director Mohannad Al Bakri, said the series was purely fictional, but it believes the content "could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion".

Such content would "possibly contravene the laws in the country", the statement added.

The 10-episode Messiah stars Mission: Impossible actress Michelle Monaghan as a CIA officer who is tasked with investigating Al-Massih, a man who claims to have been sent to Earth by a divine power.

The series shows Al-Massih, played by Belgian-Tunisian actor Mehdi Dehbi, inspire a spiritual movement and spark political unrest with his apparent miracles.

The show was partly filmed in Jordan in 2018, but the Royal Film Commission revealed it has now changed its policies to ensure shows with provocative material will not be made in the country.

“While still standing firmly by its principles, notably the respect of creative freedom, the RFC – as a public and responsible institution – cannot condone or ignore messages that infringe on the kingdom’s basic laws," the organisation's statement said.

"For the last few months, the board of the RFC has worked to reassess its policies and has reached the conclusion that it will change its policy with regard to productions shooting in Jordan, by making sure the content doesn’t breach the laws of the country."

A Netflix spokesman told Deadline a request to retract the series from its Jordanian platform had not been received.

Messiah is a work of fiction,” the spokesman said. “It is not based on any one character, figure or religion. All Netflix shows feature ratings and information to help members make their own decisions about what’s right for them and their families.”

Michelle Monaghan stars as the CIA Agent determined to find out who the mysterious man, played by Mehdi Dehbi, really is. Courtesy Netflix 
Michelle Monaghan also stars in the controversial thriller. Courtesy Netflix

This is not the first backlash that the show has sparked, with a Change.org petition launched last month that called for a boycott of the show, describing it as "anti-Islamic".

"Yes, it's provocative – the show is provocative," creator Michael Petroni told AFP at the time. "But provocative isn't offensive."

"It's not like I'm welcoming backlash," he said. "We expect that there's going to be a lot of noise around the show, and a lot of debate. I'm hoping for debate."

Updated: January 2, 2020 02:16 PM

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