Exodus movie
Morocco has banned theaters from screening the controversial biblical blockbuster, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" just one day before it was to be screened there. Shown: cast members Christian Bale and Maria Valverde, and director Ridley Scott. Reuters

Ridley Scott’s film "Exodus: Gods and Kings,” has not been without controversy -- for taking liberties with the Bible and the racial tilt of its casting, among other things. And in the latest flak for the film, Morocco has banned theaters from showing the biblical blockbuster just one day before it was to be screened, according to Agence France-Presse.

Although the state-run Moroccan Cinema Center, which governs the film industry there, had initially OK’d the screening of “Exodus,” theater managers said they had received verbal instructions from CCM not to screen the film, according to Media24.

Sarim Fassi-Fihri, chief of the Moroccan Cinema Center, declined to comment on his organization’s decision.

Theater manager Hassan Belkady, who runs Cinema Rif in Casablanca, told Media24 that he was told that if he didn’t ban “Exodus,” CCM warned him that he would be shut down. "They phoned and threatened they would shut down the theater if I did not take the film off the schedule," said Belkady.

Managers at Renaissance Cinema in Rabat were told that the ban was nationwide, TelQuel magazine reported.

“Exodus” retells the biblical story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and the film has not been without controversy prior to news of its ban in Morocco.

During the summer, director Scott riled up Christian groups when he told Entertainment Weekly that he was planning on filming the Old Testament scene of Moses parting the Red Sea not as a divine miracle, but rather as a phenomenon based on science. Then, Christian Bale, who plays Moses, told a group of international reporters that he thought his character “was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” according to Hollywood Reporter, further angering Christian and Jewish groups.

The film's detractors also include those who criticize Scott's casting of white actors in leading roles while giving slave roles to black actors, Christian Today reported. A Change.org petition urged people to boycott the film. "The Bible says both Egyptians and Ethiopians are descendants of Ham," the petition reads. "Remember, Egypt wasn't invaded by Rome until 300 B.C. Egypt is in Africa, not Europe."

Agence France-Presse speculated that the ban was put into place because Muslims believe that Moses is a prophet and hence should not be depicted in any pictorial representation, and Morocco is a largely Muslim country.