Controversial Denzel Washington Movie Is Screening In Saudi Arabia

By Douglas Helm | Published

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It may have taken 30 years, but Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcolm X is finally screening in Saudi Arabia. The biopic, starring Denzel Washington as the titular historical figure, was screened on December 3 at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah (via The Hollywood Reporter). The seminal film made history by being the first non-documentary to shoot scenes in the country’s holy city of Mecca.

Spike Lee spoke about the decision to shoot Malcolm X’s pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca and how the highest Islamic court allowed them to shoot the scenes due to the importance of Malcolm X as a historical figure. While Spike Lee was unable to shoot the scenes in Mecca himself, he was able to hire an all-Muslim camera crew to capture the footage. The efforts were worth it, as the footage is stunning and the film ended up getting two Oscar nominations including Best Actor for Denzel Washington.

In Malcolm X, Denzel Washington depicts the many phases of Malcolm X’s life. Along with Washington, the film starred Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette McKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, and Spike Lee himself. Although Lee and Washington both missed out on winning Oscars for this film, Washington would eventually grab two for Glory and Training Day and Lee would get a Best Adapted Screenplay win for 2019’s BlackKkKlansman.

Spike Lee and Denzel Washington’s film received plenty of recognition after the fact, with the film being added to United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010. While the film didn’t make a ton of money, pulling in $73 million internationally and $48 million domestically, it was widely praised by critics at the time. To this day, it is often considered one of the best films of the 1990s.

Surprisingly, Spike Lee wasn’t initially tapped to direct the film, and instead, Warner first offered the gig to Canadian film director Norman Jewison. There was a justified backlash against a white director being given the job of directing a film about one of history’s most famous black activists, so the gig was eventually handed off to Lee. Lee made significant revisions to the script, but he did keep Denzel Washington on in the lead role.

With Spike Lee directing, Denzel Washington in the lead role, and the efforts Lee put towards filming Malcolm X became the historic landmark film that it is today. Now, it’s finally screening somewhere that was a very important filming location for the movie. It seems like things really do come full circle, even if it takes a few decades.

As for when you can see Denzel Washington next, you’ll get to see him reunite with director Antoine Fuqua for the third film in the Equalizer franchise, The Equalizer 3. That film will also see Washington reunite with Dakota Fanning for the first time since 2004’s Man On Fire. The planned release date for Equalizer 3 is September 1, 2023.