"El Cid" is set in medieval Spain-- yet with the first scene the audience is as much in our own 2010 world. The setting is at the shore of North Africa. A black-robed religious fanatic is lecturing an array of Spanish emirs-- moderate Muslims-- on the true nature of their faith. Within minutes we're plunged into an ideological argument of a kind that may be taking place in some quarters of the world, or even our own country, today. The fanatic is named Ben Yussuf-- yet might as well be named Bin Something-Else. The next scene is of smoking rubble; a gutted structure. I viewed the movie mere blocks from the World Trade Center. This is the beginning of the story.
The main character, Rodrigo, quickly gets into trouble with his fellow Christian Spaniards for following a path of moderation. Soon enough he's in exile. Spain's moderates, Christian and Moor, are caught between the vise of unwavering fanaticism on one side, unyielding stubbornness on the other. Rodrigo-- "the Cid"-- pursues a middle path. Is this the path to take today regarding the so-called "clash of civilizations"? We are at war this very moment over the same question ya know. This is why "El Cid" right now is a very relevant movie that should be widely viewed. Not solely because it's a stupendously exciting movie-- but because its questions are our questions.