''Kingdom Of Heaven'' Here In May 2005

( [email protected] ) Aug 16, 2004 10:36 PM EDT

Before God’s Kingdom arrives, there must be a film called “Kingdom of Heaven,” Hollywood declares. Unlike “Passion of the Christ,” however, ‘KOH’ is less about religion and more about history, specifically the Crusade of the 12th century and the battle between Christians and Muslims over Jerusalem. Critics predict that this $130 million film will enflame controversies between the two religious groups.

Sharon Waxman of NY Times charges that, “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.”

20th Century Fox is distributing this romance/drama epic starring Orlando Bloom and Eva Green. William Monahan wrote the script, which Ridley Scott, an Oscar-nominated director is shooting in Morocco.

In an interview with NY Times, Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor of Islamic Law at UCLA said, “I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims." "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."

Laila al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in D.C. seemed to agree with the negative effect this film would have on the public discourse between Christians and Muslims, or between the West and the Middle East. "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."

But Rev. George Dennis, a Jesuit priest and history professor at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. 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," he adds.

But Mr. Fadl seemed to vehemently object saying, “In this climate,” (perhaps meaning the War in Iraq, the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the American hyper fear of terrorists), “how are people going to react to these images of Muslims attacking churches and tearing down the cross and mocking it?"

“The film has surprisingly little religious oratory, or even religious content,” reads the review by Sharon Waxman (NY Times). Another summer blockbuster from Hollywood that has little content but plenty of gory action, it seems.

However, the media’s attention turning towards religion in recent years with films such as "Passion" and "Bruce Almighty" can be viewed with optimism, even if some of the films may be misguided. According to Reverend David of the Immanuel Church, the number of movies with religious themes has increased dramatically in the past ten years. In fact, since 1996, there have been at least two films released per year that explore the idea of faith in a positive manner according to www.Adherent.com. Though it may be a little too early to herald the coming of God's Kingdom on Earth, still the film's title gives hope.