Amenabar nervous ahead of premiere of Agora blockbuster

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(AFP) -

Oscar-winning director Alejandro Amenabar said Tuesday he was "a bit nervous" ahead of the world premiere of his latest film "Agora", an historical epic with one of biggest budgets for a European movie.

"You would assume that I am not nervous before premieres, but last night I could not sleep. I must be a bit nervous," he told a news conference in Madrid.

The movie, shot in English and stars British actors Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella, tells the story of a progressive woman who defends science while standing up against religious dogma and persecution in 4th century A.D. Egypt.

At that Christianity was clashing with religions for dominance in what were the dying days of the Roman Empire.

The movie was filmed in Malta last year for a cost of 50 million euros (73 milllion dollars). It opens in Spain on Friday and a deal for its distribution in the United States is expected to be reached later this week.

"The movie denounces people who at a certain moment stop debating ideas, set aside reason, have no room for dialogue and resort to violence. This happened 1,600 years ago and it continues happening today," said Amenabar.

The Chilean-born director, 37, who considers himself to be an atheist, said the best language for a film with such a big budget was English.

"The choice of language was very clear, on the one hand there is the economic decision, and when you have a 50-million-euro movie, as (Italian writer) Umberto Eco says, the Latin of the 20th century is English. The most logical option is to film in the Latin of the 20th century," he said.

"Agora" is Amenabar's fifth film. His 2004 drama "The Sea Inside" won the Academy Award for foreign-language film. He also directed the Nicole Kidman ghost story "The Others".