The American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) today praised the portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the Kingdom of Heaven, a film about the Crusades, which will be opening nationwide on May 6. Last night, ADC staff attended a private advance screening of this new film by Sir Ridley Scott and offers the following comments.
Kingdom of Heaven is an epic-scale historical drama inspired by the events of the third Crusade of the 12th century and is based on real characters, including Balian of Ibelin, a Crusader knight, and Salah El Din (Saladin), the renowned Muslim leader. The movie, a 20th Century Fox production with a $130 million budget, was shot in Morocco with hundreds of extras, horses and elaborate costumes. The script, written by William Monahan, follows the story of Balian who rises to knighthood and embarks on a life-changing journey to find peace and a better world. Along the way, he sees the possibility of a future of peaceful coexistence of many faiths and ethnicities in Jerusalem.
In tackling a complex and potentially volatile subject, Scott avoids a simplistic perspective of Muslim vs. Christian, instead opting to highlight the similarities between the two groups of people, while presenting a spectrum of personalities and characters in both. At one point, Balian, while watching Muslims pray, exclaims, “How similar their prayers are to ours.” Additionally, Kingdom of Heaven presents a positive portrayal of Saladin, whose many acts of generosity and chivalry have been widely recognized around the world and across the ages.
ADC feels that the Arab and Muslim communities should welcome Ridley Scott’s sensitive and fair representation of the Arab and Muslim characters in his film. ADC Communications Director Laila Al-Qatami said, “Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven presents a more complex and human representation of Muslim characters than is evident in most Hollywood films. We definitely welcome 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott’s efforts to provide a fair and multifaceted portrayal of cultural and religious realities during the Crusades. We also thank Ridley Scott for arranging this screening.”
Director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Aliens, Gladiator, and many other films) said in a letter to ADC, “while the primary focus of the film is one man’s personal journey of faith, I have also given much care to addressing the very sensitive nature of the larger political and religious issues of the Crusades.”
Al-Qatami added, “As the movie closes, the last line of text states that in the more than 1000 years since, peace is still elusive in the Kingdom of Heaven.” She continued, “The vision of a shared Jerusalem, open and accessible to all, is one that we should be seeking and working toward.”