Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Syrian Actor Ghassan Massoud (Saladin)

I don’t know about you guys, but I am really anxious to see this movie....
I have been getting a lot of e-mails from friends in the states who are also waiting for the opening on May 6, and they are very excited to see Syria’s own Ghassan Massoud playing Saladin.

I have gathered some information about the film from the internet. I also found an interesting interview with Ghassan Massoud (I couldn’t find a single photo of him except for one on the film’s official site but I didn’t know how to steal it)

- KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is an epic adventure about a common man who finds himself thrust into a decades-long war. A stranger in a strange land, he serves a doomed king, falls in love with an exotic and forbidden queen, and rises to knighthood. Ultimately, he must protect the people of Jerusalem from overwhelming forces, while striving to keep a fragile peace.
- Shot in Spain and Morocco
- The film’s Budget is estimated to be $130 million
- Filming started January, 2004 and finished May 2004
- Directed by Ridley Scott
- Cast: Orlando Bloom (Balian of Ibelin), Eva Green (Sybilla), Liam Neeson (Godfrey of Ibelin), Jeremy Irons (Tiberias), Ghassan Massoud (Saladin)…

- Interview with Ghassan Massoud:

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.”


Blogger Ghalia said...

A great post Rami, I can’t wait till I see the movie hope it wont take years here in Al-Sham cinema, and I also wish it really portray it in a positive aspect, not to distort the real facts and history.

May 03, 2005 1:05 PM  
Blogger Rami said...

I really hope that people will not consider this movie as a documentary, and expect it to tell historical facts. Movies are usually made for entertainment, and rarely tell the stories as we want them too...

May 03, 2005 6:46 PM  
Blogger Amr Faham said...

here is the link:


May 03, 2005 8:39 PM  
Blogger Dina said...

Thanks for the informative post Rami, you know I had no idea such a film was in the making, I must be living on another planet!
I too hope the movie will depict Arabs fairly; I’m now looking forward to seeing it.
This reminded me of a movie I saw a long time ago called the 13th Warrior, have you seen it? It is a movie starring Antonio Banderas and Omar Al Sharif about Ahmed Ibn Fadlan, a 10th century Arab ambassador from Baghdad whose mission is to interact with and learn the ways of the Vikings. It was quite good and portrayed Arabs in a positive light.

May 03, 2005 8:52 PM  
Blogger Rami said...

No Dina I haven’t seen the 13th warrior, but I am gonna try to watch it soon…
Amr, that the official website that I talked about it. Can you figure out a way to copy Ghassan Massoud’s photo?

May 03, 2005 9:16 PM  
Blogger Ghalia said...

rami i alread y have his pic and i wanted to send it to u, but i didnt find ur email!!

May 04, 2005 12:18 AM  
Blogger Ayman said...

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) described the movie as "balanced." Representatives of this prominent Isalmic civil rights group were granted a private screening of the Movie at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. They said that the movie shows Muslims as "dignified and proud people whose lives are based on ethics and morality" and that it will be "a rare occasion when a Muslim filmgoer can leave the theater feeling good about a movie's portrayal of Islam."


May 04, 2005 2:22 PM  
Blogger Rami said...

That's good news...
Thx Ayman.

May 04, 2005 6:47 PM  
Blogger Amr Faham said...

i'm sorry i tried to but i couldn't too!

May 04, 2005 7:34 PM  
Blogger Ayman said...

One more thing. The movie is going to open tomorrow at Cham Theater in Damascus... at the same time with the US.

May 05, 2005 2:49 AM  
Blogger Omar said...

I didn't know the Ghassan was in the movie.. Thanks Rami, I'll be watching it for sure over the weekend.

May 05, 2005 4:59 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Great to know that an actor from Syria is in a such big international movie!..Good post

May 06, 2005 6:45 PM  
Blogger End racism said...

Wow, I didn't know about that. Looking forward to seeing the movie! I'm a big fan of Ridley Scott's movies (my fav is Blade Runner).

May 07, 2005 6:13 AM  
Blogger Steliano Ponticos said...

I just saw the movie in France. It is simply excellent, classical Ridley Scott action.

As for Saladin in the film, he is shown to be what he truly was. A hero and a noble and generous knight.

Great job by Ghassan Massoud and al the crew. Wondelfull film.

May 08, 2005 1:45 PM  
Blogger Rami said...

Thx a lot for the review…
I still haven’t seen the movie (hopefully this week)….

May 10, 2005 7:23 PM  
Blogger End racism said...

I just came back from the movies. I liked it. It could've been done better; there were cheesy bits, didn't like the drama aspect of the movie. I tend to agree with this review.

Ghassan Mas'ud was awesome as Salahuddin.

Good movie overall. I'd give it a 7/10.

May 11, 2005 2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from NY,

GREAT movie + GREAT Ghassan Massoud! I saw it twice and I am now waiting for the DVD. Supposedly, there is about 1.5 hours of extra footage that was cut-off (edited) from the movie in the theatre version....


May 13, 2005 7:09 AM  
Blogger Dody G. said...

I watched the movie last weekend, it's a bit cheesy in some parts but they treat Salah al Din real well in the movie.

Ghassan Massoud is great in the movie.

May 13, 2005 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahleen Khayo ! First of all, great stuff to finally see a blogger from Aleppo. We spent most wonderful five years living in the old city, better then sham...

Secondly, the film is quite a laugh, just saw it last night (we're now in the UK)and brought a bucket of salt with me to pinch...bet ghassan did it for the money, really...

May 19, 2005 2:52 PM  
Blogger Maxpixels said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

May 20, 2005 10:49 AM  
Blogger Maxpixels said...

Once in every 40 years a great man rides out of the desert to capture the screen and fire the imagination and hearts of cinema viewers around the world.

The first was TE Lawrence in 1915, filmed by American journalist, film maker and showman, Lowell Thomas who coined the phrase 'Lawrence of Arabia, and made the man a legend - rightly so. A true friend of the arabs. Betrayed, the consequences of which we are all still paying for today.

Next came Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif came in the '60's

And now Ghassan Massoud who towers above this picture as Saladin towered above all who confronted him.

There is one sentence which crystalizes this story. Even if it cost $130 million to get those few seconds it was worth every dollar. Because in those few words we have the KEY to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Having wisely surrendered the city Balian asks Saladin as he walks away what Jerusalem is worth.

"Nothing," Saladin replies. Then smiles. "And everything."

It is not until you are in the desert, with nothing, that if God wills it, you may discover you have everything, for you have found the Kingdom of Heaven - in a state of mind!

Ghassan Massoud is a man waiting for an epic film of his own. May he live long enough for the screenplay equal to his full talents be found. 'Kingdom of Heaven' wasn't it.

Just as Olivier Bloom wasn't up to the task of being neither lowly blacksmith, nor Defender of Jerusalem

May 20, 2005 1:16 PM  
Blogger Hasan Bazerbashi said...

Ya I heard about this movie a lot from my friends ... ah i'm not with them any more :(

I hope the quality will be good in Asham Cinema.... I remember it wasn't that good.

Cya guys ;)

May 22, 2005 9:03 PM  
Blogger alena said...

Hey, I have enjoyed...your blog is informative - even entertaining.

I have a halloween sites. They pretty much covers costumes and masks related stuff.

Thanks again and I'll be sure to bookmark you.

October 05, 2005 4:35 AM  
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