Directed by Moustapha Akkad, The Message is an historical epic concerning the birth of the Islamic faith and the story of the prophet Mohammed — who, in accordance with the tennets of Islam, is never seen or heard. The film begins in Mecca in the 7th century when the future prophet, Mohammed, is visited by a vision of the Angel Gabriel and is urged to cast aside the 300 idols of Kaaba and to worship Allah. The Message (originally screened in the U.S. as Mohammed, Messenger of God ) proved to be highly controversial during its production and initial release. Unfounded rumors had it that Mohammed would not only be depicted in the film, but that he was to be played by Charlton Heston or Peter O’Toole. This resulted in angry protests by Muslim extremists, until director Moustapha Akkad hired a staff of respected Islamic clerics as technical advisors. It was this attention to detail that makes The Message a fascinating portrait of the origins of one of the world’s major religions.