As a general rule, you should never talk about a film you haven’t seen. But The Lady of Heaven is proving a tricky film to catch. Plus whole crowds of people are talking about it without having seen it, so perhaps my joining in won’t do too much harm. Although it sounds like it might be some work of Vatican kitsch, The Lady of Heaven is actually about another religion. A boy in modern-day Iraq loses his mother and through doing so learns the story of Fatima, one of the daughters of Muhammad. And here is where an apparently sweeping historical drama enters tricky terrain.
For not all cinema audiences have taken the film to heart. The citizens of Bradford, for instance, turn out to include a surprising proportion of film critics. Like me, they have not actually seen the film. Unlike me, they have no desire to do so. They already know what they think – and they don’t like it one bit. So if you were tempted to hotfoot it to Bradford to buy tickets and a vat of popcorn, the trip would be in vain. For although The Lady of Heaven hit some of the nation’s cinemas last week, Cineworld has now cancelled all screenings of the film.
The cause of the cancellation was the large crowds of bearded film critics in Bradford, Birmingham, Bolton and Sheffield who turned out to protest against the screening of a film they insist is ‘blasphemous’. Again, it is hard to see how anyone can know a film is blasphemous if they have not seen it. Except that word went round these various local communities that the film portrays the aforementioned Muhammad and his family. A petition calling for it to be banned gathered more than 120,000 signatures. No actual actor plays Muhammad.