Saturday, May 14, 2005

Not to forget...

And did I mention just how heavily the theatrical version of KOH is edited?? Its so obvious that some of the scenes that were shown on trailers, weren't even there!! And there is the worst part of it all, they don't show the unfolding of the Battle of the Two Horns of Hattin which was the main turning point at that time - nearly all of the crusader army annihilated! Scott stresses that the DVD version of the movie (220+ minutes) will be much more sufficing than the threatrical one (145 minutes). I, for one, hope that the Battle of the Two Horns of Hattin is included so that Ridley would finally be able to deliver a good follow-up to the Gladiator!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Read a book!

A small matter of Crusade history

Who has greater claim to Jerusalem and its holy places, asks Orlando Bloom as he exhorts his Crusader followers to defend the walls of the city against the advancing Muslim army of Saladin.

It is a question that still resonates today and it is one of the reasons why Ridley Scott's new film, Kingdom of Heaven, is attracting such interest.

In a post-9/11 world where some academics and commentators are talking about a new clash of civilisations between Islam and the West, it is bound to be controversial to revisit that great earlier clash that saw western Christendom's repeated efforts to seize and hold Jerusalem.

History matters. And cinema's portrayal of history matters too. Kingdom of Heaven may be a medieval epic set in 1187, just before a Crusader army was wiped out at the battle of Hattin. But it has already been criticised for being a very 21st century, politically correct, view of the Crusaders' world.

Professor Jonathan Riley Smith of Cambridge University is probably Britain's leading historian of the Crusades. This film has made him angry, for the Crusades are, at the moment, a rather hot subject.

Rewriting history?

"In the Islamic world," he told me, "crusading is believed by many Muslims to be still in train.

"What has been believed now for a century in the Middle East is that the West, having lost the first round of the crusades in the Middle Ages, re-embarked on crusading in the late 19th century, using the techniques of commerce, banking, politics, diplomacy, backed of course by power.

"In those circumstances," he said, "the Crusades have to be treated very, very carefully."
So what is wrong with the history as portrayed in the film?

The story opens during a period of apparent truce between the Christian ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, King Baldwin - a man hidden behind a silver mask - and the great Muslim commander, Saladin. Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, is the film's hero; the knight who takes command of Jerusalem's defences.

But Professor Riley-Smith says that the film has taken real people and simply re-manufactured them. There was no silver mask and the real Balian was known to be harsh to his Muslim tenants.

The Crusading Order of the Knights Templar - who are the film's villains - were no better or worse than any other Crusaders, he believes.

Not all historians have been quite so dismissive. Carol Hilenbrand, professor of Islamic history at the University of Edinburgh, said she believed the film did represent an attempt to grapple with serious issues.

She didn't think that the sort of contacts and mutual respect portrayed in the film between Baldwin and Saladin were out of keeping.

Kingdom of Heaven treads a road paved with good intentions. Its Muslim characters are real people. And there is good and bad on both sides.

The battle scenes are orchestrated in a way that only Ridley Scott can. As a film, I enjoyed it. But some historians remain fearful that epic cinema risks creating epic misunderstandings about the past.

If you really want to know about the Crusades, the historians say, by all means go and see the film, but then go out and buy a good book.

Agreed whole-heartedly! If you just watch this movie and come out n say "I know all about crusades", you're just plain wrong! You have to read a good book about them and you'll definitely understand what Prof. Riley means by saying, the movie took real people and re-manufactured them. Like I said in my earlier post, the crusaders are shown a bit too good than any of them actually were.


Well, its been a week now since Kingdom of Heaven came out and even though I watched it the same day, have been feeling quite lazy to come on in here and write even if just a few lines. The movie was 'alright' as far as I can tell. It, however, didn't quite make the Ridley Scott movie impact on me personally (don't know about others) as I had thought it would. Lets say when Gladiator and Black Hawk Down came out, my expectations were fully met and I gave them 9.5 on a scale of 10. For KOH, being generous, I'd give it a 7!

Somehow the movie didn't quite have the cohesiveness that one looks for in an epic like this. Its like during the movie you get this really awkward feeling of being cut from one scene and take a leap on to another one and then cut from that and back to another scene without them being interlinked well. As far as accuracy with history goes, hmm... lets just say its a movie so there's quite a bit of fiction involved (apparently its not a documentary) and in balancing the movie to avoid harsh criticism, Ridley seems to have shown the Crusaders as a bit too good than any of them actually were!

Balian wasn't quite the Saladin of the Christians as he is portrayed (to offset the real (Muslim) Saladin), being all so chivalric and moderate. Nearly all who came with the crusades to the Muslim lands were blood thirsty scavengers who'd do anything to spill Muslim blood (awaiting the slightest excuse if the two sides weren't involved in direct hostilities - like the time period the movie is set in). Anywayz, the 7 I gave is certainly a bit more than the movie actually deserves so it should suffice even the die-hard Ridley fan!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

And the speculation continues (until release)...

Crusading for a Kingdom
Angela Baldassarre

For decades filmmakers have been using the Crusades as a bankable topic, from the myriad Robin Hood movies to Monty Python’s hilarious “Holy Grail.” And thanks to CGI technology, making an historical epic today has become remarkably “affordable,” as Ridley Scott discovered while making his Oscar-winning “Gladiator.”

For those unfamiliar with medieval history, the Crusades began in 1095 when Pope Urban II urged Christian Europe into a frenzy to reclaim the holy city of Jerusalem, conquered by Muslim armies that swept through the Middle East in the 7th century. Thousands answered the call, from kings to peasants, and successive waves of Crusaders made their way eastward over the next 200 years, laying siege to ancient cities, founding kingdoms, and sowing the seeds of religious conflict for centuries to come. Jerusalem was retaken in the First Crusade (there were eight in all), and several generations of Christian princes ruled there. But by the year 1186 the kingdom was rife with dissension, and the Muslims’ growing power threatened its very existence, maintained only by replenishing the garrisons with fresh forces from Europe.

In 2002, Scott and brother Tony’s company Scott Free had joined forces with 20th Century Fox to produce pictures. The project Scott was hoping to make was “Tripoli,” the story of how U.S. soldier William Eaton joined forces with an exiled king to overthrow the corrupt ruler of what is now Libya. But when his “Gladiator” star Russell Crowe was unable to commit to the project because of scheduling conflicts, Scott shelved the picture but remained impressed with the script written by William Monahan who suggested the director consider making a film about the Crusades instead.

“It’s a very rich time in history,” says Scott. “If you examine those 200 years historically, you see every possible shade of human behaviour. You can go in and almost surgically choose the moment you want to explore.”

Monahan had long been fascinated by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, especially the reign of Baldwin IV. “It was a period of equilibrium between the Crusader state and the Muslims,” he notes. “There is a balance of power. It is partly a practical truce, but there is also a kind of fascination between the cultures.” The mutual respect for peace was maintained by King Baldwin IV and Saladin, who were both at odds with extremists in their respective camps.

Monahan worked from primary sources, using firsthand accounts (in translation) by people who were present while history was being made, and avoiding interpretations written over the subsequent centuries. His research revealed that King Baldwin and Saladin did indeed achieve an unprecedented truce between their societies, during which all three of the great monotheistic religions were practiced freely in Jerusalem.

The script, originally titled “The Crusades,” dramatizes an episode shortly before the Third Crusade, when Jerusalem and much of the Holy Land were ruled by European knights, drawn to crusading by religious fervour and the promise of land and riches in an exotic realm. Their story centres on one of those knights, Balian of Ibelin, who becomes a hero, standing firm against treachery in the Christian alliance, and leading the people of Jerusalem in a gallant defense against Saladin’s vast Saracen army. In Jerusalem, Balian falls in love with the princess Sibylla, King Baldwin’s sister and the reluctant wife of the power-hungry baron Guy de Lusignan.

Securing a budget of $100 million, and a January 2004 production start in Morocco, the film was given a greenlight. (Landing the production was a major coup for the Moroccan government, which had been courting Hollywood epics following a wave of suicide attacks that killed 41 people in Casablanca in June of 2003.)

The casting process took several months, and after accepting the fact that Crowe would not be able to play any role in the pic, the director hired Orlando Bloom to play Balian. Scott saw Bloom's potential when he cast the then-unknown actor to join the ensemble of "Black Hawk Down." "Peter Jackson’s 'Lord of the Rings' hadn't yet come out, and Orlando proved himself to be an excellent actor in a strong ensemble that included Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana and Ewan McGregor," Scott said. “Orlando is a very honest, outgoing person. That’s who he is. He’s also very good physically in the field. He fell out of a helicopter for me in ‘Black Hawk Down.’ He can do all the things that I required him to do, but I think his honesty and earnestness give him a distinct level of authenticity in the role of Balian.”

As to Bloom, “I got to live every boy’s dream,” he says. “A knight, quite simply, gets the girl, gets to be everything he is meant to be. Balian is a reluctant hero on a quest, which is the best kind of hero, for my money.”

The next major role was that of Sibylla, and though Scott initially considered Kiera Chaplin (great-granddaughter to Charlie), he hired French actress Eva Green whom he admired in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers.”

“Ridley is such a humble person,” observes Green. “As massive in scope as this film is, he makes it very easy and very simple to work with him. He also understands how vulnerable an actor can be and creates an atmosphere of security around you. His calm and energy make you stronger. He never shows a moment of anxiety or tension.”

Many in the cast accepted character roles on the basis of Monahan’s script and the chance to work with Scott. Jeremy Irons, who appeared in a commercial directed by Scott two decades earlier, actively sought out the director after reading the script. “It was everything you want a big action movie script to be,” says the actor who plays Tiberias, military advisor to King Baldwin. “I wanted to be a part of that. If you’re going make a big movie, with heart and with enormous potential for huge things happening, the director you want to work with is Ridley. I think he is making a film unlike anything he’s done before.”

Scott insisted that all the Muslim roles be played by Muslim actors. Ghassan Massoud and Khaled Nabawy, who portray Saladin and the fanatical Mullah, are major stars in the Arab world. “It is a very special experience for me to work with Ridley on this film,” comments Massoud. “It must be a very special experience for any actor from the East to play with a director like Ridley Scott. We respect how he thinks about this film, about the characters and the story.”

Liam Neeson was always in Scott’s mind to play Godfrey of Ibelin, the hero’s father. The role he took on in the film carried over naturally into the cast interactions as they made their way across locations in Spain and Morocco. “When you have this many actors, they form a community very quickly,” Scott notes. “Liam was always a kind of leader to that little group. Even though he’s not that different in age from a lot of the cast, he was very much a father figure to many of them.”

Other major actors include David Thewlis as the Hospitaler, Godfrey’s spiritual counselor and military aide; and Brendan Gleeson as the bloodthirsty Reynald of Chatillon.
By the time production began in January of 2004, the film’s title was changed to “The Kingdom of Heaven.” And though the producers found few snags during filming, they got stuck when shooting in Spain where the Catholic Church refused their request to film in the former Grand Mosque of Cordoba, which is now a Christian cathedral.

Church authorities said the plans of Scott would "interfere with religious life". The director wanted to use the cathedral, known as the Mezquita, but a church spokesman said "the 200 people and the false door and walls and all the props would interrupt the religious life of the Mezquita for roughly a month, which would be disorderly and excessive."

The issue assumed political overtones, with politicians of the traditionally communist-run city strongly criticizing the Church and the Right wing for not seizing the opportunity to promote Cordoba. Carmen Caldo, the local culture official, and the mayor, Rosa Aguilar, made private petitions to the bishop to reconsider while strongly attacking the Church for not allowing filming.

"It seems we are losing a great opportunity and I am surprised the Church will not lend the city a helping hand," said Ms Caldo.

But the producers’ biggest headache began last month, just weeks before the film’s release. Author James Reston Jr., author of "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade," claimed that Scott had stolen his research to make the "Kingdom of Heaven," and demanded that all production, publicity and advertisement relating to the film cease, pending a negotiated settlement of grievances.

Reston argued that the studio and screenwriter Monahan violated American and international copyright law by using Balian as well as other "events, characters, scenes, descriptions and character tensions" in the film that were "strikingly similar" to his narrative history. Reston's book concentrates on the Third Crusade, in which Richard the Lionheart meets and is eventually defeated by Kurdish sultan Saladin.

"The reality is that your client's book concentrates upon Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, and Balian is not a significant part of the text," read a five-page rebuttal letter from Fox, adding that the character Balian was only mentioned on about 10 pages of Reston's text.

The letter continued to state that the studio used other original historical sources and secondary works, including the three-volume work "History of the Crusades" by Sir Steven Runciman.
"I suppose there is a legal argument," responded Reston, "that [Monahan] had it in mind all along, that they knew of Balian of Ibelin, that he got all this from somewhere else, reading 1950s Cambridge, England, stodgy old histories. But I don't think so."

Reston claimed that in December 2001 producer Mike Medavoy optioned his book and sent a letter to Scott reading, "There are lots of great characters in this story — think 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'A Man for All Seasons’." Scott allegedly rejected the offer since he already had his own Crusades project in the works. Three months later, Reston learned that Scott was working with Monahan on a film about the Crusades of the 11th century. It wasn't until August 2004 that Reston discovered that the project would actually be set during the Third Crusade — the time period of the events in his book — renewing his suspicions.

Reston has yet to file a lawsuit.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven contd...

Well here's another article that I think is quite necessary to have a look at before making any judgements about the movie and/or its content (opens in theatres May 6th)!

"Kingdom Of Heaven" What you need to know
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How and why did Ridley Scott become involved with "Kingdom of Heaven?"

Scott wanted to make a film about medieval knights, whom he considered to be the "cowboys" of their time. He was fascinated by their pure, severe code that carried with it degrees of fairness, faith and chivalry. The screenwriter, William Monahan, suggested to Ridley a story about the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the reigns of Baldwin IV and Saladin.

What time period and location is covered in this historical epic?

The story opens during the Crusades, in the year 1186. It focuses on a brief interlude of truce between the second and third Crusades when Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted in a fragile peace. While the story begins in France, with a brief stop in Italy, it takes place almost entirely in Jerusalem.

Where was it filmed?

Production on "Kingdom of Heaven" began on January 12, 2004, near Huesca in northern Spain at the spectacular Loarre Castle, a mountaintop fortress dating back to the 11th century. Other treasures of Spain's architectural patrimony appearing in the film include Avila's inspiring cathedral, Segovia's Valsain Wood, Cordoba's Mezquita and the Casa de Pilotas, a replica of Pontius Pilate's Jerusalem home. Following six weeks of filming in Spain, the production moved onward to Ouarzazate and Essaouira, Morocco, which were used to recreate the Holy Land. Among the largest productions in Twentieth Century Fox history in terms of sheer scale, "Kingdom of Heaven" completed principal photography in June, 2004.

What exactly were the Crusades?

The Crusades (literally, "wars of the cross") spanned two centuries of medieval history, when European Christians mounted military expeditions to fulfill a solemn vow to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims.

Is "Kingdom Of Heaven" based on actual historical events?

"Kingdom of Heaven" is historical fiction, using the actual events of this period as an epic canvas upon which to create a great human drama. But as in any film based on historical events, there are always pieces that must be left out, mostly for time and relevance to the story's themes. Monahan read the primary historical documents, but it was a difficult task since there obviously exist no witnesses today to describe what occurred during those years. The historical accuracy can best be described as sensitive conjecture. However, the script was praised for its accuracy by every scholar who was consulted, both Muslim and Christian, according to Twentieth Century Fox.

What historical accounts was this film based on? What historians were consulted?

Monahan was familiar with most of the primary historical documents. In researching the history, he chiefly used primary sources - for example, the accounts of William of Tyre (c.1130-1185), regarded by historians as among the greatest chroniclers of any age. He was a chancellor to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, as well as the personal tutor of Baldwin IV. Monahan also used the works of Lyon Eracles (an anonymous French chronicler), and many Muslim writers such as Imad al-Dine and Osama Ibn Munquidh, for incident, color, and perspective. The characters:

Actual historical figures or fictions?

Characters in historical fiction typically are a mixture of "real" personages, with details of their lives altered or embroidered and invented characters whose points of view give the reader or viewer a window into the period and its people, or fills in puzzling omissions in our historical record. Certain characters and their behavior were deliberately modified for story purposes, while remaining relatively faithful to their historical models.

During the early Crusades, Saladin or Salah al-Dine (Ghassan Massoud) was considered the greatest warrior and diplomat of the Muslims. Noted for his chivalrous behavior, he was respected by Christians and Muslims alike. Nearly all of the Near Eastern cities fell to Saladin and his army of Saracens, or Muslim warriors. While Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson) is a wholly invented character, he would be fairly typical of a younger son of a lord who went to the Holy Land to make his fortune. Many leaders of the early Crusades were French noblemen like Godfrey. Later, Crusaders came from many different countries. Renegade Crusader barons like Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) and Reynald de Chatillon (Brendan Gleeson) attacked Arab caravans and were intent on driving out the Muslims, showing no interest in peaceful coexistence.

Religious military orders were instituted to man garrisons in the Holy Land and protect Christian pilgrims. One of these orders was known as the Knights Hospitaler and they wore a white cross. The Hospitaler (David Thewlis) who accompanies Godfrey and the other Crusaders, was one of these warrior monks, although he is a wholly invented character in the film created to balance the more fanatical Christians in the story. Another order, the Knights Templar, wore a red cross. The Knights Templar grew very powerful as soldiers, diplomat, and bankers. As the Crusades ended, the military orders made a last stand in the Holy Land.

King Baldwin IV worked to keep the peace while defending his kingdom in Jerusalem during his short lifetime; he died at age 24 from leprosy. Tiberias (Jeremy Irons), whose real name was Raymond of Tripoli, was King Baldwin's adviser. Sibylla (Eva Green) was the king's sister who had a son, King Baldwin V, said to be in delicate health and who died at the age of 6 or 7. And finally, Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), on whom the plot is hinged, needed a largely fictional treatment. The real Balian was an established lord, not a French artisan. There are key places where the tracks of the real Balian and the film Balian converge, especially near the end. The real Balian was known to have organized the defense of Jerusalem and negotiated the terms of its surrender with Saladin. - R.S

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Well most of us know about Sir Ridley Scott's new movie to come out this summer (May 6th), an epic drama, Kingdom of Heaven. It is based around the latter half of the twelfth century and specifically focuses on the year 1187 when Jerusalem, which was at that time in crusader hands, fell to the Muslim leader Saladin. The movie has yet to be released and already there is a lot of controversy surrounding it 'cuz apparently it touches a sensitive topic and raises eyebrows within both the Christian and Muslim circles. Until the movie comes out, I will be posting some of the articles written and discussions going on to see what the fuss is all about! Lets see now, there's this interesting one by the New York Times (some of you have probably read it but oh well),

And the controversy begins...
Film on Crusades Could Become Hollywood's Next Battleground
By Sharon Waxman
Published: August 12, 2004

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11 - With bloody images of Muslims and Westerners battling in Iraq and elsewhere on the nightly news, it may seem like odd timing to unveil a big-budget Hollywood epic depicting the ferocious fight between Christians and Muslims over Jerusalem in the Crusade of the 12th century.

But 20th Century Fox is planning a release next year for "Kingdom of Heaven," a $130 million production by the Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, shot in Morocco with hundreds of extras, horses and elaborate costumes. The script, by William Monahan, is based on real characters of the three-century Crusades, including Balian of Ibelin, a Crusader knight who led the defense of Jerusalem in 1187, and the Muslim leader Saladin, who defeated him.

While the studio has tried to emphasize the romance and thrilling action, some religious scholars and interfaith activists who were provided a copy of the script by The New York Times questioned the wisdom of a big Hollywood movie about an ancient religious conflict when many people believe those conflicts have been reignited in a modern context.

"My real concern would be just the concept of a movie about the Crusades, and what that means in the American discourse today," said Laila al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington. She added: "I feel like there's a lot of rhetoric, a lot of words flying around, with prominent figures talking about Islam being incompatible with Christianity and American values. This kind of movie might reinforce that theme in the discourse." Not all of the people contacted by The Times were worried about the film's effect.

The Rev. George Dennis, a Jesuit priest and a history professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, who was one of five experts provided with the script for "Kingdom of Heaven," said he was impressed by its nuance and accuracy. "Historically I found it pretty accurate," he said. "I can't think of any objections from the Christian side. And I don't think Muslims should have any objections. There's nothing offensive to anyone in there, I don't think."
But Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies Islamic law, vehemently disagreed, calling the screenplay offensive and a replay of historic Hollywood stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.

"I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims," he said. "There is a stereotype of the Muslim as constantly stupid, retarded, backward, unable to think in complex forms. It's really annoying at an intellectual level, and it really misrepresents history on many levels."
Mr. Fadl argued that the movie would reinforce negative attitudes toward Muslims in America. "In this climate how are people going to react to these images of Muslims attacking churches and tearing down the cross and mocking it?" he asked.

Aside from the movie's specifics, the subject is a fraught one. Even the word "crusade" remains loaded. When President Bush initially called the war on terror a "crusade" after the 9/11 attacks, he was criticized by some for using a term that has long had anti-Muslim overtones. Meanwhile some Islamic experts who analyzed Osama bin Laden's motives after 9/11 suggested that he was trying to cast himself as a modern-day Saladin. And Saladin's name was invoked by Saddam Hussein's government to rally Muslims against the American-led invasion of Iraq.
Mr. Scott said he was not concerned about disturbing the sensitivities of any religious group. The film "sounds like a Boy Scout ethic," he said in an interview last week, adding: "It talks about using your heart and your head, being ethical. How can you argue with that? There's no stomping on the Koran, none of that."

For a movie about holy war, "Kingdom of Heaven" has surprisingly little religious oratory, or even religious content. The only overtly religious figures are extremists: marauding Knights Templar on the Christian side and murderous Saracen knights on the Muslim side.
Balian, the hero of the film, played by the British actor Orlando Bloom, is a French blacksmith drafted reluctantly into the Crusade in the wake of his wife's suicide. Once in Jerusalem, where the world's three monotheistic religions are depicted as coexisting, he falls in love with the king's sister.

second page...

After a massacre of Muslims by the Knights Templar, Saladin, played by Ghassan Massoud, goes to war. This leader is depicted as balanced and chivalrous, at least until he orders that no quarter be given in the ransacking of Jerusalem. Jim Gianopulos, co-chairman of the Fox studio, said he did not think the film would be a source of controversy. "We're thrilled to have Ridley making this movie,'' he said. "After all, he is the master of the modern epic, and this is a story rich in scale, adventure, romance and action with a superb cast led by Orlando Bloom. From what we've seen, it will be one of the most exciting movie events of 2005."

Executives at Warner Brothers read the script and declined to share the financing of the movie with Fox, but Alan Horn, president of Warner Brothers, said the refusal had nothing to do with the topic. He said the studio had other period epics on its slate.

"I thought it was balanced, with different political views," Mr. Horn said. "It wasn't black and white, good and bad."

Nonetheless the battle scenes in the script are vast and violent. One of Hollywood's most acclaimed directors, Mr. Scott has created indelible tableaus of battle in movies like "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down."

In its many scenes of devastation, the script shows intransigence on both sides. "Will you yield the city?" the victorious Saladin asks Balian. He replies: "Before I lose it, I will burn it to the ground. Your holy places. Ours. Every last thing in Jerusalem that drives men mad." Near the end of the film the script describes the Muslim army as advancing on Jerusalem. Saladin says: "Not one alive. Not one," as the advancing soldiers cry, "Allah!"

The script reads: "As the Muslim army of thousands advances at a run, ready to kill the Christians at a single rush, Balian looks to his left in the shield wall. The Saracen knights fire a sky-blackening volley of arrows and charge, screaming 'Allah.' This is their chance; they will take Jerusalem at this rush and are not afraid of martyrdom." The Muslim army is hacked to pieces, and a crane shot reveals "Saracens tangled with Europeans inside the breech in the wall," the script says. "Hundreds of dead; thousands perhaps.''

The two university scholars who read the script did not agree on its historical accuracy. Father George said that the 12th-century Crusader state was, as shown in the film, relatively tolerant, and that Saladin did in fact order his troops to give no quarter in the fighting in Jerusalem, an order he later rescinded.

But Mr. Fadl said the Crusader state was by its nature discriminatory and oppressive of other religions. He said that the Muslim knights took the idea of granting quarter very seriously, and that the notion that Saladin would thank Balian for teaching him chivalry, as the script had it, was laughable. "Pick up any book on chivalry, it's exactly the opposite," he said. "The whole idea of knighthood and chivalry came from Muslims and was exported to Europe." He noted, as did Father George, that at the time of this Crusade, science and scholarship were far more advanced in the Islamic world than in Europe.

Of course for Hollywood, controversy isn't necessarily bad. Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" found itself at the center of a firestorm when Jewish groups, angered by his violent depiction of the Crucifixion, complained the movie was anti-Semitic. It nonetheless earned $609 million worldwide..

Various Crusade-era scripts have sparked interest on Hollywood back lots for decades, notably one that was being developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990's. Mr. Scott said he was asked to do that script and declined. "I wanted to do my own knight subject," he said, adding that he was studying the religious conflict when he and Mr. Monahan came up with the film's concept in 2002.

"I try to make movies," Mr. Scott said. "I'm not a documentarian. When you've got 300 years to choose from, this was the most interesting conflict, which was a balanced one as well."
Whether moviegoers agree remains to be seen. "I think its going to cause a firestorm of criticism and free publicity in the op-ed pages," said Christy Lohr, the coordinator of the Multifaith Ministry Education Consortium in New York, an association of 12 theological schools.

"I imagine that's part of the appeal for Hollywood," said Ms. Lohr, who read the script. "It is cynical, but I think they enjoy stirring up a hornets' nest."

I think the movie is going to be fairly balanced but there could be some discrepancies which I've tried to highlight by italicizing the paragraphs which contain the issues misrepresented. Lets hope Mr. Scott pays some attention to those concerns portrayed by Mr. Khaled Abu el-Fadl. Overall it sounds a pretty daring adventure and should be one of the best movies of 2005.