A couple of months ago I signed a freelance contract with the German-based web magazine Qantara.de - Dialogue with the Islamic World. "Qantara" is the Arabic word for bridge and the site is an effort on the part of the Federal Centre For Political Education, Deutsche Welle, The Goethe Institute, and The Institute For Foreign Cultural Relations to bridge the gulf between the Islamic world and the West by promoting dialogue between the two cultures.
This split between the two worlds is nothing new, although the "War On Terror" hasn't helped matters. The silent movies of the 1920s perpetuated the romantic lover image, and before that, swarthy devils showed up in literature and paintings making off with beautiful maidens. Unfortunately it will take more than the efforts of one on line magazine to offset the accumulation of over a thousand years of misrepresentation and propaganda disseminated about Islam to encourage people to be a little more broad minded in their outlook. So it was a pleasant surprise to see how Ridley Scott's 2005 movie Kingdom Of Heaven presented such a balanced view of both the Muslim and Christian worlds during the fight for control of Jerusalem in 12th century A.D.
I hadn't read very much about the movie when it was first released, but when I came across it at My Movie Download.com, a site where you can download DivX versions of movies cheaply, there were so many actors in the cast whose talents I appreciate that I figured it was worth the price just to watch them work. Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton, and Eva Green were sufficient incentive to overcome any doubts that I may have had about Orlando Bloom's ability as a dramatic leading man.
Bloom's character, Balian, is a poor blacksmith and when we meet him he's just finished burying his wife who had committed suicide after the death of their newborn child. A party of knights headed towards the Holy Land stop nominally to have their horses shod, but their leader, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson) has an ulterior motive. Many years ago he seduced a young woman who subsequently gave birth to - you guessed it Balian. After announcing that he's his father, Godfrey offers to take Balian to the Middle East to give him the chance for a new life. Initially Balian turns him down, but after he kills the village priest in a fit of rage - the priest tells him his wife has gone to hell because she committed suicide - he takes him up on the offer. Unfortunately the church doesn't think too highly of those who kill their anointed ones, and send out a party of soldiers to bring Balian back. In the fight that ensues when Godfrey refuses to hand Balian over, Godfrey is fatally wounded and only lives long enough to make Balian his heir and knight him.