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A plea for understanding

Epic attempts to bridge religious divide

It was on this day (July 16) in 622 that a new era in human history began. The date, which represents the first day of the first year on the Muslim calendar, marks the founding of what has become the world’s second-largest religion. It’s keyed to the historic event known as the Hegira, the flight of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers from a hostile Mecca to the more welcoming Medina. Credited with establishing the Islamic calendar is the faith’s second caliph, Umar I. He did so in the year 639 on what was known to Christian Europe as the Julian calendar. (In 1582, Europeans began using the reformed Gregorian calendar, which is now the world’s civil standard.) Confusion was inevitable. While Europeans were using a solar calendar with a 365¼-day year, the Middle East was marking time on a lunar calendar of either 354- or 355-day years. This year on September 21, the Muslim faithful will ring in the year 1439. As if we don’t have enough trouble understanding one another, do the math and it appears that those who adhere to Islam’s calendar either age faster or live longer than those who don’t. In the late 1970s, Syrian-born American filmmaker Moustapha Akkad discovered that understanding (in the form of tolerance) was in short supply when he set out to tell the story of his faith’s founding. Protests and a Washington D.C. hostage crisis followed the release of 1976’s Mohammad, Messenger of God.


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What becomes a legend

Comic charm lost after a rape scene

Encouraged by legendary director Gilles Carle, André Forcier took up filmmaking at a time when Quebec’s French-language cinema was the best in Canada. Born on this day (July 19) in 1947, Forcier told a story of love on the margins in his 1990 feature An Imaginary Tale.

comics page

Recalling college days

Love can be a multi-tasking thing

Not only is today (July 14) France’s fête nationale, it’s also the birthday of the most important person in my life. To mark the occasion, we’ll remember a cheerful French romantic comedy directed by one of our favourite film artists: Philippe de Broca’s 1977 feature Dear Inspector.


Putting names to faces

Companion for videocassette viewers

Always reliable, Helen Mirren built her star status on a solid foundation of supporting roles. Born on this day (July 26) in 1945, Mirren is one of 1,000 performers included in Peter Chapman’s 1994 book The Players: Actors in Movies on Television and Videocassette.


The Women of Al Jazeera

My Blog; Your Guide to What's New

I don’t have to dislike Saudi Arabia because it’s a despotic theocracy, one utterly lacking in respect for human rights or press freedom that publicly beheads some 150 “criminals” every year. No, I can dislike it for the threat it poses to my favourite TV news network, Al Jazeera English.



A DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES is the Internet address of Michael Walsh, a Canadian living in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I spent my working life as a newspaperman. While others covered the waterfront, I specialized in movies. As a film critic, I published my views in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, at conferences, conventions and in the occasional courtroom. It was my good fortune to cover 30 of the most exciting, innovative years in screen history (1965-1995).
Retired, but not inactive, I've launched Reeling Back in in order to recall and, perhaps, make sense of it all. Eventually, it will grow into an archive of the nearly 6,000 films I've reviewed to date. Because everything old is news again, each posting will include a note connecting these particular movie memories to the here and now.

And, yes, I intend Reeling Back to offer new material, including web-log commentary, reviews of current pop culture and additions to my own "works in progress" — four book-length projects still in the notebook phase.

From Will Shakespeare to Marshall McLuhan to Joss Whedon, the great thinkers have all reminded us that we live in a world of wonders. In this small corner of cyberspace, I'd like to share some of the wonders that I have seen.