Controversial Egyptian film ‘The Atheist’ gets go ahead by censors


es approved the screening of the controversial film “The Atheist” amid apprehensions about the reactions of the predominantly conservative population as well as Islamist politicians over tackling such a sensitive issue that has for years not been openly discussed.

The approval, however, was given only for the written script and final approval for screening in movie theaters will only be given after the filming is complete and the film is evaluated by the censors.

Despite this conditioned approval and the fact that the film is still subject to banning in case the censorship authority disapproves of the final product, the idea of making a film about atheists has sparked outrage and the film’s writer and director Nader Seif al-Din has already started to receive death threats from unknown people demanding he relinquish the project altogether.

The film, the first in the history of Egyptian cinema to discuss atheism, tells the story of a preacher who has an atheist son and keeps trying to talk him into changing his mind.
The preacher is also the presenter of a religious program on a satellite channel and starts becoming the laughing stock of viewers after his son’s beliefs become known. He get calls on air telling him he is not fit for preaching since he is unable to make his son believe in God.

In order to avoid criticism by Islamists, Seif al-Din has said that he is going to consult several religious scholars about the content of the film to make sure it presents a strong argument about the existence of God and against atheism.

According to Seif al-Din, “The Atheist” is not against religion as some might guess from the name, but is on the contrary categorized under the genre of religious cinema.
Seif al-Din explained that through discussing the problem of atheism, the film stresses the importance of faith and the evidence of the existence of God.

Despite being a religious film, Seif al-Din explained, it is produced independently in the sense that it is not funded or encouraged by any of the Islamist powers in the Egyptian political scene.

When asked why he decided to tackle an issue that is likely to cause a lot of problems if only because of the film’s name, Seif al-Din replied that he had noticed that the number of atheists in Egypt is increasing and that they have started calling for their rights.

This, he said, made him feel that it is necessary to make a film that addresses the problem and that highlights the misconceptions endorsed by atheists.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)