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Kira

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Again, with thanks to A. Bernard, we have a translation of an article from the Arabic newspaper Al-safeer:

Ghassan Massoud-What happens when we follow Saladin to his tent and find him all by himself?

While British academics and fundamentalist historians in the west attack Ridley Scott's film "Kingdom of Heaven", one that they described as a free prize for Osama bin Laden as it shows Arabs as civilized through the depiction of Saladin as a noble knight, Arab voices and newspapers fear the movie would be just another in the line of stereotypical movies that negatively portray Arabs and Muslims.

The Syrian actor and director Ghassan Massoud - who plays the role of Saladin which occupies 35% of the movie - speaks up, and he expected the Arab voices that attacked the film to ask for the screenplay, or ask him [about these issues].

Regarding the concern of some Arab voices about the negative portrayal of Arabs and Muslims he was asked:

Did you have these concerns about the film?

“Of course I did. As soon as I got a call to meet the director via Ms. Nashwa Al-Rweiny, I had concerns about any negativity towards Arabs and Muslims in the film, and I can't participate in something like that, then I read the script putting in mind that we can't provide the audience with a sterile historical character, because in Arab drama we tend to paint a historical figure that does no wrong. The character has a high degree of balance, and has a great deal of respect from the screenwriter and the director, and I had a prolonged discussion with the director only to discover that British culture has a great deal of respect for Saladin as a noble foe to Richard the Lionheart as [saladin] sent him his doctor as well as apples and honey from Damascus. I'm responsible for every word I say in this conversation, but cinema is essentially the art of editing, so if the director wants to, he could produce a bad image in the editing room.” 

You told me you helped reshoot some scenes.

“I suggested that we reshoot two of the scenes, the scene of Saladin entering Jerusalem while soldiers are running around looting the palace, which happens in all battles, during which there were some papers falling into the fire. I stopped and told the director that in Arab Islamic memory, Hulago burnt Baghdad and its library - burnt the science, culture and civilization - and I can't accept that Saladin is portrayed to do the same. He told me he was sorry if that had happened and I told him it did, so he rewound [the shot] and we saw some papers clearly being burnt in the fire. He reshot the scene and said, ‘I respect Saladin and I can't depict him as such.’

“In another scene, Saladin walks to find a cross on the ground, so I asked about it and he said it's part of the set. I then suggested that Saladin lifts the cross from the ground and puts it on a nearby table with respect as the scene could be used against Muslims later. Then we did the scene, but then [Ridley] Scott told me it's better to do it entirely without the cross because someone on the set said by that we'd make Saladin even better than Jesus, and that’s how it was finally done.”

How did you prepare for the role?

“I have and still read many books and references about Saladin, and I have seen the work of Nagdat Anzor - "The search for Saladin" - as well as Youssef Shahin's "Al Naser Salah el Din," which I have seen more than once. But what I think is that we usually deal with a historical figure as a mask, which means that we always portray a character that does no wrong. My opinion is that behind the mask we love and respect there's a lot to be known. As for Saladin, his charisma and appearance before his soldiers and people is the mask where most of his character is apparent, but what would we find if we follow him to his tent and find him all by himself?”

So you mean there's not much divergence between your thoughts and the director's thoughts about the character?

“You might think I'm exaggerating when I say they were nearly identical because this man [Ridley Scott] proved that he respects Saladin and strongly admires the idea of chivalry and nobility of the man.”

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That's a really interesting interview! I like the obvious respect between director and actor, as well as toward the character. Thank you for posting this!

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Thanks, Kira and A.Bernard!

I'm no scholar of history or Saladin, but the little bits I've found about his dealings with Balian and Jerusalem indicated that he was very generous with them. It's exciting to hear that Ridley Scott is so focused on the elevated code of conduct that the men on both sides of the conflict would follow in principle. I think it would be much more interesting dramatically for Balian and Saladin to be portrayed as noble adversaries who respected each other rather than good guy/bad guy. Even though it was a brutal era people on both sides were also philosophical, compassionate and devout.

Here's a naive thought. Considering all the talk of how potentially divisive this film supposedly is, wouldn't it be cool if it actually brought people together a bit?

Eh.it's only a movie. Can't wait to see it. :w00t:

TF

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Guest laconejita
Here's a naive thought. Considering all the talk of how potentially divisive this film supposedly is, wouldn't it be cool if it actually brought people together a bit?

What'dya s'pose the chance of that happening is? :wink: I'm reminded of the Beach Boys "wouldn't it be nice." Ah well! Fingers will be pointed, I think we can count on that, but maybe we'll be able to truly coexist for 2.5 hours in the theater.

Thanks for the interview! It's really interesting to see such respect for the characters and for their real-life counterparts. Makes me think that this will be one of the first movies to depict both sides as human beings. Better late than never!

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What an interesting article! Thanks for sharing that. This movie is gonna be good, and it won't just be us who will think so. It's wonderful how respectful Sir Ridley was toward the characters, particularly since they were real people. May 2005 has got to come quickly!

:crusader:

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Thanks Kira. Interesting interview and a good indication of the respect both the director and the actor have for each other and the character.

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Here's a naive thought. Considering all the talk of how potentially divisive this film supposedly is, wouldn't it be cool if it actually brought people together a bit?

Eh.it's only a movie. Can't wait to see it.  :w00t:

TF

Sigh.. What a wonderful thought, TF. But I don't think that would be possible, at least not in our life time. :( And Kira, thank you for article. It was very interesting to read. The respect that Ridley showed towards the actors and characters is truly remarkable. I am even more excited to see this movie now. May can't come soon enough for me.

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Thanks for the article!

A truly interesting read, and it's nice to get a look on what's been happening while filming. It's good to see how much care and devotion went into this project, and I just hope that interviews like this one won't be forgotten once KoH comes out and the probably divisive feedback will start.

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Guest thanby_eh
Thanks, Kira and A.Bernard!

I'm no scholar of history or Saladin, but the little bits I've found about his dealings with Balian and Jerusalem indicated that he was very generous with them. It's exciting to hear that Ridley Scott is so focused on the elevated code of conduct that the men on both sides of the conflict would follow in principle. I think it would be much more interesting dramatically for Balian and Saladin to be portrayed as noble adversaries who respected each other rather than good guy/bad guy. Even though it was a brutal era people on both sides were also philosophical, compassionate and devout.

Here's a naive thought. Considering all the talk of how potentially divisive this film supposedly is, wouldn't it be cool if it actually brought people together a bit?

Eh.it's only a movie. Can't wait to see it. :w00t:

TF

Salahudeen was indeed a very generous and kind man. I've read up on him as much as I could, being a Muslim myself and all. During his time, when all of the European monarchs and whatnot were gathering together (and plotting against each other) to fight against Salahudeen, the only one they all knew they could trust was their enemy--quite ironically.

As for your negative thought, TithenFeredir, I do not think this will bring people together. As much as I hope it will, I have a gut feeling it will not. I do admire and respect Ridley for doing the things he did that were mentioned in the above interview, but all things being fair and considered, I know that there will be latent negativites tucked away, to be found only by those sharp enough to find them. However, I truly hope people come away from this learning something positive, and perhaps having some of their myths about Muslims and Arabs dispelled.

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