THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
This chronology setsforth a study of Mel Gibson's challenges in getting his movie, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, produced in an industry that is dominated by liberal, not-very-religious Jewish males of European heritage. See http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/control.htm#execlist
Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002 12:36 a.m. EDT
Mel Gibson Plans Film on Passion of Jesus
Zenit.org reports that Mel Gibson is in Italy to finalize details for the filming of a movie on the passion and death of Jesus.
Variety magazine said the Australian actor-producer sought advice from Vatican experts for "Passion," which will be produced by his Icon Productions. The film will be faithful to Gibson's Catholicism, the magazine added.
Gibson has decided on actor Jim Caviezel to play the role of Jesus. Caviezel, also a Catholic, is acclaimed for his roles in "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "High Crimes."
The Spanish newspaper La Razón reported that the filming will begin in mid-September, coinciding with the Roman fall, which in Gibson's words will bring "the right light to re-create the particular atmosphere I want."
Gibson and two aides traveled to Sassi di Matera early last month in preparation for filming. Sources speculate that filming may take place in the nearby town of Craco.
Pier Paolo Pasolini filmed the "Gospel According to St. Matthew" in Sassi in 1964. Its ancient neighborhood of Sasso Caveoso has an old center abounding in cave-houses excavated from limestone. "Passion" is due out in 2003.
Friday, Sept. 13, 2002
Mel Gibson Attacks Vatican
Actor Mel Gibson, a staunchly orthodox Roman Catholic who will play Christ in an upcoming movie, says the Vatican is a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and that he doesn't believe in the present-day Church as an institution.
Gibson, who calls himself an "old-fashioned Catholic" devoted to the Latin mass and pre-Vatican II Catholicism told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that he believes in God and is happy that his only daughter has decided to become a nun.
In Rome to film "Passion," a new film about the final hours of Christ's life, Gibson, 46, recalled that he had a stern Catholic upbringing as a youngster in Australia, where he attended Catholic school.
"My love for religion was transmitted to me by my father," he told the newspaper. "But I do not believe in the Church as an institution." Gibson said he has a private chapel at his home in Malibu, Calif., at which mass is celebrated every Sunday in Latin.
The replacement of the Latin liturgy by vernacular languages has caused many Catholics such as Gibson to seek out parishes where the Latin mass is celebrated on Sundays. The Vatican allows Latin masses but they are rare in the U.S.
Vatican II rules permit local bishops to apply for so-called "indults" -exceptions that allow celebration of the pre-Vatican II Tridentine liturgy. In recent years there has been a growing movement to restore Latin as the language of the mass. Adherents point to the fact that the pope continues to say his private daily mass in Latin.
Gibson's objections to the post-Vatican II church echo those of the members of the Society of St. Pius X, which broke away from Rome partially because of the abandonment of the Tridentine liturgy. It has chapels scattered around the U.S., where the liturgy is the pre-Vatican II Tridentine mass celebrated in Latin.
In the U.S. the Society claims it has 43 priests, 60 seminarians, 15 priories, 98 chapels and 26 schools.
According to Britain's Times, Gibson and his wife, Robyn, have been married for more than 20 years. He is fiercely protective of his seven children (six sons and one daughter, who he says wants to be a nun, which he is very happy about). He says he was attracted to the story of Christ's last hours before the crucifixion because it is "the drama of a man torn between his divine spirit and his earthly weakness."
In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the road to Calvary and at Golgotha, Gibson said, Jesus is often described as being calmly resigned to his suffering and death despite St. Luke's account of Christ's agony in the Garden of Olives, where he underwent an attack of hematidrosa - where victims sweat blood as a result of profound emotion or great fear.
Gibson says, "my Jesus will be shaken by his human suffering. Real blood will flow from the wound in his side, and the screams of his crucifixion will be real as well."
Catholic sources told the Times that Gibson sought the advice of theologians and prelates in Rome for his film and that the actor has strong views on divorce, abortion and contraception.
Lay Off Mel Gibson
James Hirsen, NewsMax.com
Mel Gibson stands out in Hollywood like an oak tree in a field of ragweed. You see he doesn't share the values, beliefs or lifestyles of the left in Tinseltown. He actually makes meaningful films with messages that celebrate family, faith and freedom. And worst of all for the entertainment libs, he's super successful at it.
Gibson has really gone and done it this time. Some folks in the liberal establishment are extremely uncomfortable with the actor/director/producer's latest project. It turns out that his company has underwritten a film that Gibson himself is directing. The working title is "The Passion," and it's about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
This is completely unacceptable to some. Not only is this film not going to demean Christianity, as other flicks like "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Jesus of Montreal" have done, but Mel is actually using Scripture as his guide and telling the literal truth.
"Tolerant" liberals can't stand for this type of material being disseminated. The anti-Christian types may have already begun their opposition research. In fact, it appears as if the snoop troops are out in full force.
Gibson went on Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor" and indicated that a print reporter is nosing around his family, friends and even his 85-year-old father. There's apparently an attempt to dig up some dirt in hopes of harming Mel and his project.
In answer to O'Reilly's questions, the filmmaker responded with the directness of a faith-filled individual.
Gibson referred to Christ's death as a "sacrifice willingly taken."
When speaking of those who might appreciate the film, Gibson said, "I think anybody that is in the know about Jesus as God – and they believe in that – realize that he was brutalized and that I'm exploring it this way." That's the statement of an unabashed believer in the deity of Jesus.
Gibson spoke of the actual suffering that will be displayed in the film in this way: "When you look at the reasons behind why Christ came – why he was crucified – he died for all mankind and he suffered for all mankind, so that, really, anybody who transgresses has to look at their own part or look at their own culpability."
We all pretty much know this isn't the usual theology of Hollywood. The film will utilize languages of the New Testament period – Aramaic and Latin. Gibson believes that a filmmaker can "transcend language with the message through image."
It looks like the worldview of some folks is seriously threatened by the combination of Gibson's talent and Christ's story. Whatever the case, it's a sure bet that a lot more Americans are grateful to Mel Gibson and won't take kindly to some lefty-led filth-finding expedition. Maybe it's time for such so-called journalists to get a new hobby. Or maybe even find religion.
Mel Gibson Does Jesus Movie the Hard Way
Mel Gibson's Great Passion
ROME --Zenit.org-- Oscar-winning actor-director Mel Gibson is in Rome these days, working on a film on the passion of Christ at the Cinecittà studios.
The movie focuses on the last hours of Christ's life and stars Jim Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line," "Angel Eyes," "The Count of Monte Cristo") as Jesus.
Q: What made you decide to do this project?
It's been slowly coming on for about 10 or 12 years now. I'm a pretty old guy, but if you go back 12 years I was 35. That's when I started to investigate the roots of my faith. I had always believed in God, that he existed, and I was brought up to believe in a certain way.
But in my middle years, I kind of drifted, and other things took center stage. At that point, I realized I needed something more if I was going to survive. A closer investigation of the Gospels, of the story, of the whole piece, was demanded of me.
That's when the idea started to percolate inside my head. I began to see it realistically, re-creating it in my own mind so that it would make sense for me, so I could relate to it. That's what I want to put on the screen.
Q: So many movies about the life of Christ have already been made. Why make another one?
I don't think other films have tapped into the real force of this story. I mean, have you seen any of the others? They are either inaccurate in their history, or they suffer from bad music or bad hair. This film will show the passion of Jesus Christ just the way it happened. It's like traveling back in time and watching the events unfold exactly as they occurred.
Q: How can you be sure that your version is so accurate?
We've done the research. I'm telling the story as the Bible tells it. I think the story, as it really happened, speaks for itself. The Gospel is a complete script, and that's what we're filming.
Q: This seems like a switch from the usual Mel Gibson productions. Your specialty is action, adventure and romance. What made you decide to do a religious film?
I'm doing what I've always done: telling stories I think are important in the language I speak best: film. I think most great stories are hero stories. People want to reach out and grab at something higher, and vicariously live through heroism, and lift their spirit that way.
There is no greater hero story than this one – about the greatest love one can have, which is to lay down one's life for someone. The Passion is the biggest adventure story of all time. I think it's the biggest love-story of all time; God becoming man and men killing God – if that's not action, nothing is.
Q: Who will want to see a film like this?
I think everyone will. The story has inspired art, culture, behavior, governments, kingdoms, countries – it has influenced the world in more ways than you can imagine. It's a pivotal event in history that has made us what we are today. Believers and nonbelievers alike, we have all been affected by it.
So many people are searching for meaning in life, asking themselves a lot of questions. They'll come looking for answers. Some will find them, some won't.
Q: So this film isn't only for Christians?
"Gandhi" was a blockbuster hit, but it wasn't just for Hindus. This film is for everyone. For believers and nonbelievers, Jesus Christ is undoubtedly one of the most important historical figures of all time. Name one person who has had a greater impact on the course of history.
Q: But if this film is focused on bringing the Gospels to life, won't it be offensive to non-Christians? For example, the role of the Jewish leaders in Jesus' death. If you depict that, won't it be offensive?
This isn't a story about Jews vs. Christians. Jesus himself was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and so were his Twelve Apostles. It's true that, as the Bible says, "He came unto his own and his own received him not"; I can't hide that.
But that doesn't mean that the sins of the past were any worse than the sins of the present. Christ paid the price for all our sins.
The struggle between good and evil, and the overwhelming power of love go beyond race and culture. This film is about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. These are things that the world could use more of, particularly in these turbulent times. This film is meant to inspire, not to offend.
Q: Even so, some people are going to think that you just want to "push your beliefs on others." Is that true?
I didn't invent this story. I do happen to believe it. It's something that just gets inside of you and has to come out. I'm just trying to tell it well, better than it's ever been told before. When you're dealing with non-fiction, a director's responsibility is to make it as accurate as possible. Open-minded people will appreciate it for what it is.
Q: What about the violence? Won't people find some of the more graphic scenes inappropriate?
Some people might, but, hey, that's the way it was. There is no gratuitous violence in this film. I don't think anyone under 12 should go see it – unless they're a very mature 12-year-old. It's pretty heavy.
I think we have gotten too used to seeing pretty crucifixes on the wall and we forget what really happened. I mean, we know that Jesus was scourged, that he carried his cross, that he had nails put through his hands and feet, but we rarely think about what this means.
Growing up I didn't realize what was involved in this. I didn't realize how hard it was. The full horror of what Jesus suffered for our redemption didn't really strike me. Understanding what he went through, even on a human level, makes me feel not only compassion, but also a debt: I want to repay him for the enormity of his sacrifice.
Q: What about the language barrier? You're filming in two dead languages – Latin and Aramaic – and you're not planning to use subtitles. Won't that be a turnoff?
Caravaggio's paintings don't have subtitles, but people get the message. The Nutcracker Ballet doesn't have subtitles, but people get the message. I think that the image will overcome the language barrier. That's my hope.
I'm just trying to be as real as possible. There is something kind of startling about watching it in the original languages. The reality comes out and hits you. Full-contact. I know we are only re-creating, but we are doing the best we can to simulate an experience of really being there.
And I think it's almost counterproductive to say some of these things in a modern language. It makes you want to stand up and shout out the next line, like when you hear "To be or not to be" and you instinctively say to yourself, "That is the question."
But if you hear the words spoken as they were spoken at the time, it can kind of stun you. I've seen that happen when we're working. It gets a clarity to it through the acting, through the nuances of the characters, the movement of the camera – it's the movement, it's the timing, it's everything. All of a sudden it's very, very clear to me. That's when I cut and move on.
Q: When you finish this project, will it be a letdown to go back to less sublime subject matter?
No, it will be a relief to do something that's a little lighter. There is a tremendous burden of responsibility in this one, not to sell anything short. I just hope I can do justice to the story. You can't please everybody, but then again, that's not my goal.
Attack on Mel Gibson Continues
THE LEFT COAST REPORT A Political Look at Hollywood
He hadn’t seen the film yet. He hadn’t read the New York Times Magazine article yet. But that didn’t stop Rabbi Marvin Hier from expressing trepidation about Mel Gibson’s new film, "The Passion."
The dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center apparently found out that the magazine article described Gibson as a Catholic opposed to the reforms of Vatican II.
Heir told Reuters, "Obviously, no one has seen ‘The Passion,’ and I certainly have no problem with Mel Gibson's right to believe as he sees fit or make any movie he wants to." But then he added, "What concerns me, however, is when I read that the film's purpose is to undo the changes made by Vatican II."
The rabbi went on to say, "If the new film seeks to undo Vatican II ... it would unleash more of the scurrilous charges of deicide directed against the Jewish people, which took the Catholic Church 20 centuries to finally repudiate."
There are no indications from Gibson’s production group that the purpose of the film is to undo anything. Still, Hier apparently figured that Gibson’s misgivings over the changes of Vatican II were somehow causing him to distort the historical treatment of Christ’s death.
There’s more to this story than meets the eye, though. The rabbi’s comments appear to have been a prelude to the New York Times Magazine’s piece. The article seemed to have suggested that Gibson is some kind of a conspiracy theorist.
New York Times Magazine reporter Christopher Noxon wrote that Gibson’s brand of Catholicism is supported by a "splinter group of conspiracy-minded Catholics, mystics, monarchists and disaffected conservatives."
Noxon also went after the actor’s 85-year-old father, Hutton Gibson, and was able to obtain controversial quotes to use in the piece. Mel, of course, loves his dad but like most offspring doesn’t agree with all of his father’s ideas.
Just a little aside. Mel Gibson has plans to build a church on a 16-acre site in Malibu. It just so happens that Noxon’s father lives in the area near the proposed church.
The Left Coast Report thinks we haven’t seen this kind of journalism since Connie Chung manipulated Newt Gingrich’s mother.
Crucifying Mel Gibson
The left is targeting Mel Gibson. They are using his new movie as their vehicle to smear this good and decent man.
The New York Times magazine fired the first shot – a shoddy, thoroughly dishonest – and largely disjointed – story that concentrated on Gibson's father’s rather bizarre views as a way of attacking Gibson, who avoided the writer, from the rear.
The author, some guy named Noxon, appears to have taken up the cudgels on behalf of his own father, who is unhappy that the tranquility of his California neighborhood has been disturbed by a Roman Catholic chapel Gibson has built on an 11-acre tract near Noxon's father's home.
In other words, the attack seems to have been sparked by a case of NIMBY (Not in my Backyard).
In his Washington Post column, Lloyd Grove got to the point: Gibson is making a movie about the last 12 hours of Christ. For reasons I fail to understand, this upsets the left, a largely atheistic bunch who are fixating on spreading the rumor that the movie blames the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ. Ergo, Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite.
Gibson of course denies this, as well he should. The man is a very devout traditional Catholic, steeped in Roman Catholic doctrine, and he says quite correctly that to blame the Jews of Christ's time for crucifying Jesus is to misunderstand and distort the meaning of the crucifixion.
To begin with, Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross by Roman soldiers, most probably Syrian auxiliaries. He was condemned to crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator. There wasn't a Jew in the bunch.
Now, Jesus was brought to Pilate by the Temple authorities, who wanted him crucified because they believed he threatened their tight grip on the people of Israel but were forbidden by Roman law to do the job themselves. They were of course, Jews, but they were not ordinary Jews. They ran the place and, as Christ charged, misused their authority and, allied with the Roman occupiers, ground their own people under their heels.
But they did not crucify Christ. Nor did the Romans.
Says Gibson, "I crucified Christ." And in that he is absolutely correct. He did, I did, you did. Christ died in expiation for sin – your sins, my sins, everybody's sins going back to the dawn of creation.
We're all sinners and we all crucified Christ, and continue to do so, day in and day out, by our sins. And among those sins is to proclaim that the Jews crucified Christ.
To blame Christ's death on the Jewish people would be like blaming the Iraqi people for the excesses of Saddam Hussein. They are Saddam's victims, just as the people of Israel were the victims of the Temple bureaucracy.
Christ's mother was a Jew. His disciples were Jews. All of the first Christians were Jews. None of them crucified Christ.
Mel Gibson is making a movie that portrays, in all its horror, Christ's agony in his final hours. Gibson himself has been shocked by what he has learned about Christ's terrible sufferings, just as I was when I researched our Lord's passion and death for my little book on the Shroud of Turin. The extent of that suffering is almost beyond human comprehension.
Gibson believes, as I do, that it is important to understand the extent of Christ's sufferings because by so doing we get a very slight idea of the extent of Christ's love for all of us miserable sinners. Mel is willing to back his belief with his own money and time, $25 million and several years of effort, so that we can understand what he has learned.
He deserves better than the New York Times and its liberal allies are throwing at him.
Hang in there, Mel.
* * * * * *
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute. He can be reached email@example.com.
A Mere Christian Commends Mel Gibson’s Traditional Catholic Beliefs
Dr. Ted Baehr
Recently, the New York Times ran a featured article by Christopher Noxon in the prestigious New York Times Magazine entitled "Is the Pope Catholic ... Enough?" (March 9, 2003)
This article, which was listed as news on the New York Times Web site, dripped with sarcasm as it sliced and diced Mel Gibson for directing a movie on the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life entitled "The Passion." The article was pointedly aimed at poisoning people’s attitude about Mel’s movie "The Passion" and about Mel himself.
On March 11, 2003, Fox News concluded that "Sunday's New York Times Magazine didn't do a heck of a lot for Mel Gibson. In fact, there's a good chance it may have wiped out his career."
Mr. Noxon’s article was so biased and inaccurate that I felt I should respond even though I am a Christian, but not a Roman Catholic, and even though I have heard that Mel Gibson does not support our efforts to redeem the values of the mass media of entertainment through our Annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to Hollywood, where we have awarded his movies with several Crystal Movieguide Awards year after year going back to his version of "Hamlet."
The article opens by painting Mel as the leader of "a group of conspiracy-minded Catholics, mystics, monarchists and disaffected conservatives – including a seminary dropout and rabble-rousing theologist who also happens to be Mel Gibson's father."
This should have been phrased more accurately that Mel is supporting a church for Catholics who share a love for the Latin Mass, vibrant Christian faith, traditional values and remnant theology.
Mr. Noxon goes on to say that the Mass will be "conducted entirely in Latin." "Latin, however, is just the beginning – traditionalists refrain from eating meat on Fridays, and traditionalist women wear headdresses in church."
In other words, these believers prefer the Latin Mass, which is beautiful; fasting, which is biblical; and hats, though Mr. Noxon makes it sound as if these are some strange group of natives who like "headdresses" (really!).
The next line is a hoot: "The movement seeks to revive an orthodoxy uncorrupted by the theological and social changes of the last 300 years or so." Every revival is an attempt to get back to basics. In many ways, this sounds like a good idea.
Then Mr. Noxon quotes a book entitled "The Smoke of Satan," by sociology professor Michael W. Cuneo, to cover a large leap into pure presumption and defamation.
According to the quote, Mr. Cuneo contends that traditionalists "would like nothing more than to be transported back to Louis XIV's France or Franco's Spain, where Catholicism enjoyed an unrivaled presidency over cultural life and other religions existed entirely at its beneficence."
The inference, of course, is that this is what Mel wants, but Mr. Noxon has not asked Mel if this is what he wants. Rather, Mr. Noxon has unfairly associated Mel with the horrendous "Smoke of Satan" and Louis XIV’s France. This is bias in the extreme.
But it gets worse.
Mr. Noxon then turns to smearing Mel’s 84-year-old father, Hutton, whom he calls "a well-known author and activist who has railed against the Vatican for more than 30 years." His most scathing attack on Mel’s elderly father noted that Hutton Gibson dismisses "historical accounts that six million Jews were exterminated." Of course, Noxon quotes Hutton Gibson's views without providing any evidence that Mel Gibson shares them.
Finally, Mr. Noxon turns to Mel’s movie project "The Passion" and suggests that it will inflame anti-Semitic feelings. Mr. Noxon "reports" that "a friend of the Gibson family has his own ideas about how traditionalist thought is informing ‘The Passion.’ Gary Giuffre, a founder of the traditionalist St. Jude Chapel in Texas, says Gibson told him about his plans for ‘The Passion’ on a recent visit. … It will graphically portray the intense suffering of Christ, perhaps as no film has done before. … Most important, he says, the film will lay the blame for the death of Christ where it belongs … which some traditionalists believe means the Jewish authorities who presided over his trial and delivered him to the Romans to be crucified."
After insinuating that the movie is anti-Semitic, Mr. Noxon admits, in a nod to civility that shows how unbalanced his writing is: "In his conversation with Bill O'Reilly ..., Gibson was asked whether his account might particularly upset Jews. ‘It may,’ he said. ‘It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth. I want to be as truthful as possible. But when you look at the reasons why Christ came, why He was crucified … He died for all mankind and He suffered for all mankind. So that, really, anyone who transgresses has to look at their own part or look at their own culpability.’ "
Mr. Noxon may not understand what Mel is saying, but all of us bear the responsibility for the death of Jesus, since He died for our sins and was resurrected to guarantee us eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Noxon sets Mel’s fellow Catholics against him by reporting "that Gibson made a … scathing attack against the Vatican, calling it a ‘wolf in sheep's clothing,’ " even though Mr. Gibson has consulted the Vatican about the movie of Jesus Christ and travels frequently to Rome to confer on theological details.
Fox News concluded on its Web site: "Sunday's New York Times Magazine didn't do a heck of a lot for Mel Gibson. In fact, there's a good chance it may have wiped out his career."
However, the words of Gamaliel 2,000 years ago in Acts 5:38-39 (NIV) sound more accurate when he stood up in the Sanhedrin and said: "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
Mr. Noxon may want to consider the words of Gamaliel as he rails against Mr. Gibson, "The Passion" and the other Christians who have the courage to proclaim their beliefs in the mass media of entertainment.
Moreover, he may want to consider that the world needs more movies about Jesus Christ, who loved mankind so much that he was willing to die for those who set themselves against him as his enemies.
Dr. Ted Baehr's MOVIEGUIDE ENewsletter (http://www.movieguide.org) is published by the Christian Film & Television Commission.
Archbishop Defends Mel Gibson's 'Passion'
DENVER – Though Mel Gibson's latest film "The Passion" isn't scheduled to appear in theaters for eight months, it is already arousing heated debate.
This week Archbishop Charles Chaput devoted his column in the Denver Catholic Register to defending Gibson's movie from those who charge that a cinematic portrayal of Christ's passion and death could stir up flames of anti-Semitism.
"I find it puzzling and disturbing that anyone would feel licensed to attack a film of sincere faith before it has even been released," Archbishop Chaput writes. "When the overtly provocative 'The Last Temptation of Christ' was released 15 years ago, movie critics piously lectured Catholics to be open-minded and tolerant. Surely that advice should apply equally for everyone."
The column follows on the heels of a string of recent attacks on Gibson's film, culminating in an 18-page report of an ad hoc committee of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs criticizing the script of the movie.
The ad hoc scholar's group that produced the report was assembled by Eugene Fisher of the bishops' conference and Rabbi Eugene Korn of the Anti-Defamation League, and comprised a mix of nine Jewish and Christian academics. One of the signers, Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt University, describes herself as "a Yankee Jewish feminist ... with a commitment to exposing and expunging anti-Jewish, sexist and heterosexist theologies."
The group's report, dated May 2, criticized everything from the size of the cross used for the crucifixion scene, to the languages spoken, to poor character development. The document's central complaint, however, is that "a graphic movie presentation of the crucifixion could reawaken the very anti-Semitic attitudes that we have devoted our careers to combating."
The report takes issue with director Gibson's decision to focus on Christ's passion rather than presenting a broader vision of "the ministry of Jesus, of his preaching and teaching about God's reign, his distinctive table companionship, his mediation of God's gracious mercy."
The report furthermore disapproves of the film's treatment of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' passion as historical facts. According to the signers, Gibson disregards exegetical theories that the Evangelists' accounts represent later efforts of the Christian community to "shift responsibility from Pilate onto Jewish figures," and accuses the script of utilizing the four distinct passion narratives "without regard for their apologetic and polemical features."
Yet Gibson has recently received support from the Jewish sector as well.
Writing in the New York Jewish weekly Forward, Orthodox Jewish author David Klinghoffer defended Gibson's efforts and chided his co-religionists for adhering to the historically dubious account of Jesus' death handed down by Jewish officialdom.
Such an account absolves the Jews from complicity in Jesus' death and places the blame on the shoulders of the Romans. "Our loyalty should be to Judaism and to truth," Klinghoffer writes, "not to an officially sanctioned, sanitized version of Judaism or the truth – which may be neither Jewish nor true."
The ad hoc group report follows on a series of stories that appeared in different news media across North America, criticizing the movie along similar lines.
Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, for example, denounced Gibson's film for its literal reading of the Biblical accounts of Christ's passion. According to Carroll, "Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred."
Such opinions are not shared by other scholars in the field. Jesuit Father William J. Fulco, National Endowment for the Humanities professor of ancient Mediterranean studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, not only read the script, but translated it into Aramaic and Latin.
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Father Fulco points out that "the Jewish community portrayed in the film consists of people both sympathetic to Jesus and hostile to him, just as the Roman community is portrayed. Indeed, if anyone does not come off well in this film, it is the Roman community and governing establishment. ... I would be aghast at any suggestion that Mel is anti-Semitic."
This is not the first time the bishops' committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has gone out on a limb in its interpretation of scriptural texts.
Last August, the committee published "Reflections on Covenant and Mission," which stated that Jews' witness to the Kingdom "must not be curtailed by seeking the conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity." The document immediately came under heavy fire from Catholics and Protestants alike, as betraying the message of the New Testament.
Cardinal William Keeler, the U.S. bishops' moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, was quick to point out that the committee's findings did not represent a formal position of the bishops' conference.
Given that no one has yet viewed the film, Archbishop Chaput recommends prudence. "We'll get a chance to love or criticize 'The Passion' soon enough," he writes. "In the meantime, between a decent man and his critics, I'll choose the decent man every time – until the evidence shows otherwise."
|With Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff|
|For the story behind the story...|
Friday, June 13, 2003
Mel Gibson Defends 'The Passion'
Actor-director Mel Gibson says some in the Jewish and Catholic community are misinterpreting his "The Passion," which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ.
"To be certain, neither I nor my film is anti-Semitic," Gibson said in a statement issued to Daily Variety this week.
"'The Passion' is a movie meant to inspire not offend. My intention in bringing it to the screen is to create a lasting work of art and engender serious thought among audiences of diverse faith backgrounds (or none) who have varying familiarity with this story."
Gibson's comments follow criticism from a committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Anti-Defamation League, which haven't seen "The Passion," starring James Caviezel and scheduled for release in April 2004.
Gibson said: "If the intense scrutiny during my 25 years in public life revealed I had ever persecuted or discriminated against anyone based on race or creed, I would be all too willing to make amends. But there is no such record.
"Nor do I hate anybody - certainly not the Jews.
"They are my friends and associates, both in my work and social life. Thankfully, treasured friendships forged over decades are not easily shaken by nasty innuendo. Anti-Semitism is not only contrary to my personal beliefs, it is also contrary to the core message of my movie," Gibson said.
According to the statement, an ad hoc group of Jewish and Catholic scholars that advise the bishops and ADL distributed an earlier draft of the script obtained from what they called a "Deep Throat."
"While we respect everyone's right to their opinion about the film," said producer Steve McEveety, "no one has a right to publicly critique a film that has not even been completed, let alone base their critique on an outdated version of the script which has been illegally obtained."
A sight-unseen campaign against "The Passion" began after the scandal-ridden, fiction-publishing New York York Times ran an article about the controversial traditionalist beliefs of Gibson's elderly father, Hutton Gibson.
"We regret that this situation has occurred and offer our apologies," Mark Chopko, general counsel for Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in the statement. "I have further advised the scholars group that this draft screenplay is not considered to be representative of the film and should not be the subject of further public comment. When the film is released, the USCCB will review it at that time."
According to the statement, "The group of scholars convened via email and the Internet had intended to read the confidential script in order to request revisions of the film that conform to their ideas of history and theology."
Gibson dismissed claims that his movie would be heretical in the eyes of the Vatican.
"For those concerned about the content of this film, know that it conforms to the narratives of Christ's passion and death found in the four Gospels of the New Testament," he said.
"This is a movie about faith, hope, love and forgiveness - something sorely needed in these turbulent times."
Gibson's troubles may not lie with his interpretation of the biblical account of the death of Jesus, which his film closely mirrors.
As it turns out, the "scholars" who have criticized his film are feverishly working on a rewrite of the New Testament. These scholars claim that the Gospel writers - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - wrote the New Testament Gospels to curry favor with the Roman authories that ruled the known world at that time. They are unhappy that Gibson stuck to the original text.
Critics Used Stolen Copy of Gibson's 'Passion'
James Hirsen, NewsMax.com
Just imagine a story line like this. With the help of an individual who has been called "our Deep Throat," some academics get their hands on a stolen draft of a confidential script. Next, using ideas and notes from the pilfered preliminary screenplay, a report is generated that distorts and twists the film’s message. Then a bunch of news stories and commentaries spring up.
That iswhat has been going on with Mel Gibson’s upcoming film called "The Passion." There has been an effort to kick up a dust storm of controversy over a movie from Icon Productions on the last hours in the life of Jesus Christ, before the thing is even completed.
Franklin Graham’s words seem hauntingly appropriate: "After all these centuries, just why is the Name of Jesus so controversial and still stirring such a brew of conflicting passions?"
Conflicting passions are the operative words here. And for some people, conflicting passions somehow permit theft to become a means to an end.
It’s as if we’re hearing a story about some robbers who steal a car off an assembly line and then publish their complaints about the shoddiness of the vehicle in consumer advocacy venues.
The press has downplayed the fact that the script was criminally obtained. But not only did these so-called critics receive something that had been illegally acquired, the stolen product that they used to make their quiver of poison arrows was obsolete and had already been significantly revised.
As Icon producer Steve McEveety tells me, the script "is not a true representation of the film. It was, and is, a work in progress, as any filmmaker would appreciate."
McEveety also notes that the folks at Icon "respect everyone’s right to their opinion about the film." But "no one has a right to publicly critique a film that has not even been completed, let alone base their critique on an outdated version of the script which has been illegally obtained."
Here’s the unprecedented way that "The Passion" is being assaulted. The press is quoting scholars who have written a supposedly confidential report. But the report has somehow landed in the hands of the news media. And some of the report’s authors appear to be more than willing to let their criticisms be aired in public; this despite the fact that the report is based on incomplete, dated, confidential and pirated material. Kind of makes you wonder just how elastic the definition of "scholar" has become.
Although a lot of Mel’s muggers don’t seem to have the guts to state their names, a few have come forward and identified themselves.
For example, there’s Paula Fredriksen of Boston University. If you’re making a film that involves the Christian faith, this is one lady you’ll probably want to avoid.
When PBS’s "Frontline" put together a four-hour program in 1998 called "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians," which, by the way, aired during the Easter season, it enlisted the help of Fredriksen. Dismissing the idea of seeking factual information from the Gospels, Fredriksen called the sacred books "a kind of religious advertisement." She explained that the Gospels "proclaim their individual author's interpretation of the Christian message through the device of using Jesus of Nazareth as a spokesperson for the evangelist's position."
Three days before Christmas 2001, the Washington Post decided to play Grinch by publishing a Fredriksen comment about the trustworthiness of the New Testament. Fredriksen is quoted by the Post as saying, "I can't think of any New Testament scholar who takes [the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth] to be historically reliable," adding that most scholars believe that Christ was not born in Bethlehem. (Apparently, Fredriksen hasn’t run across the scores of traditional scholars who certainly make their homes in Beantown, as they do in every other city in the U.S.)
And in the secularly riddled "The Search for Jesus," which aired in June 2000, ABC’s Peter Jennings also turned to Fredriksen to get her input.
Philip Cunningham, executive director of Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, is another vociferous critic of a film he hasn’t yet seen. In March 2003, Cunningham told Jewish Week that "it is impossible to do a film based strictly on the Gospels." This professor is apparently claiming that a film on Christ’s death shouldn’t use the Gospels as a source because "they disagree with one another on some essential details."
The whole bunch reminds me of the same dopes who are trying to make Play-Doh out of the Constitution. Just like the cleverly crafted references to a "living, breathing Constitution," these folks are prattling on about "progressive interpretation" and "historical context" when what they really want is an eventual rewrite of the Good Book.
Because some of the stories that appeared in the press indicated that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was associated with the report, the bishops apparently felt they had the need to apologize as well as distance themselves.
"We regret that this situation has occurred, and offer our apologies," stated Mark E. Chopko, general counsel for the USCCB. "I have further advised the scholars group that this draft screenplay is not considered to be representative of the film and should not be the subject of further public comment. When the film is released, the USCCB will review it at that time."
What a novel idea – actually waiting until a film is done before reviewing it.
Mel Gibson is so widely respected in the entertainment industry that charges from the critical cabal look silly. Mel explains that any notion of him being discriminatory runs counter to the core message of his movie.
"‘The Passion’ is a film meant to inspire, not offend," says Gibson. "My intention in bringing it to the screen is to create a lasting work of art and engender serious thought among audiences of diverse faith backgrounds (or none) who have varying familiarity with this story. For those concerned about the content of this film, know that it conforms to the narratives of Christ’s passion and death found in the four Gospels of the New Testament. This is a movie about faith, hope, love and forgiveness – something sorely needed in these turbulent times."
Not much to quibble with there. Makes you wonder what the devil has gotten into these people.
Mel Gibson Gets a Passion-Filled Apology
THE LEFT COAST REPORT
A Political Look at Hollywood
For a lot of folks, sorry seems to be the hardest word. But these days you never can tell who’s going to be in need of forgiveness.
It seems that a group of nascent detractors, who were posing as scholars, hobnobbed on the Internet and reviewed a confidential script of Mel Gibson’s film "The Passion."
Press reports then appeared that were critical of the unfinished and unseen movie. News stories that emerged also gave the impression that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was somehow involved in the mess. Was the whole thing true?
No, says a statement by the USCCB. The group had to apologize, clarify and distance itself from the gang of cynics.
Evidently it was the USCCB’s understanding that the so-called scholars were going to communicate with Gibson’s people privately, not that they were going to talk to any reporter they could find.
According to a released statement, the USCCB "knew only that the scholars’ group intended to offer comments for the private consideration of the producers."
The USCCB also saw the need to separate itself from the scholars’ comments, saying that it had not "authorized, reviewed or approved the report written by its members."
In another statement, Mark Chopko, general counsel for Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed contrition. "We regret that this situation has occurred and offer our apologies."
Because of the nature of an early draft, Chopko properly chastised the "scholars group" that a "draft screenplay is not considered to be representative of the film and should not be the subject of further public comment."
The Left Coast Report notes that the so-called scholars who have attacked "The Passion" used a stolen draft script and allowed their study to be misrepresented as one associated with the USCCB. Who the heck is their press agent, Jayson Blair? (See "Critics Used Stolen Copy of Gibson’s ‘Passion’")
|With Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff|
|For the story behind the story...|
Saturday, June 21, 2003 11:11 p.m. EDT
ADL Still Wants Preview of Mel Gibson's 'Passion'
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says it won’t be happy with Mel Gibson until it can view his upcoming film "The Passion" before it goes public.
Though the film about the last days of Jesus' life leading to his crucifixion won't be released until next year and critics have not even seen the film, it has become a focal point of contention.
The latest round of controversy was spurred by an op-ed column by New York Post staffer Eric Fettman this past Thursday.
In "Mel's Cross to Bear," Fettman expressed some concerns about the film as well, but he also gives Gibson the benefit of the doubt.
Fettman wrote that it was a "no brainer" that criticism of the film should be made once it is released, and added, "You have to wonder why both groups felt the need to sound off now."
While some Catholic scholars have criticized the film (they say they don't like the fact that Gibson stuck to the Gospel accounts, as they are currently "rewriting" the New Testament, whatever that means), a spokesperson for the Catholic bishops issued a strongly worded statement this month saying the scholars did not act on behalf of the Catholic Conference and that they would not criticize the film.
The Jewish group, the ADL, remains firmly in opposition to the film.
Fettman warned that "the ADL should know better than anyone about speaking too soon."
He revealed that when CBS aired its miniseries about Hitler's early days, "ADL National Director Abe Foxman blasted the network, calling it 'distressing that people would spend talent, time and money to make this man human.'"
Fettman's article drew a quick response from the ADL.
In a letter to the Post published Saturday, Ken Jacobson, the ADL's Associate National Director, wrote, "Eric Fettmann unfairly criticizes the Anti-Defamation League for our concerns about Mel Gibson's film on the death of Jesus."
Jacobson said the ADL remains worried over Gibson's "plans to retell the Passion." He added, "Historically, the Passion - the story of the killing of Jesus - has resulted in the death of Jews."
He continued: "We would hope that Gibson and his production company would follow the example of CBS and the makers of the recent Hitler miniseries, who reached out to us, listened attentively to our concerns and shared with us their final product before airing. Together we worked to turn the miniseries into a teaching moment about the consequences of unchecked hatred."
Gibson has questioned why he, of all filmmakers, needs to have his dramatic film reviewed, especially since, as he says, the film "conforms to the narratives of Christ's passion and death found in the four Gospels of the New Testament."
|With Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff|
|For the story behind the story...|
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Mel Gibson's 'Passion' Draws New Attacks and Support
Without having seen the movie, Anti-Defamation League of America continues to insist that Mel Gibson's "The Passion" could be "replete with objectionable elements that would promote anti-Semitism."
ADL admitted Tuesday that its complaint was based on a study of an early version of the screenplay. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has apologized to Gibson for making similar attacks based on the stolen draft, which later underwent many revisions.
ADL stated that director and co-writer Gibson and his colleagues "must complement their artistic vision with sound scholarship, which includes knowledge of how the passion accounts have been used historically to disparage and attack Jews and Judaism. Absent such scholarly and theological understanding, productions such as 'The Passion' could likely falsify history and fuel the animus of those who hate Jews."
Gibson earlier stated: "To be certain, neither I nor my film are anti-Semitic. Nor do I hate anybody - certainly not the Jews."
ADL spokesman Myrna Shinbaum said the group issued its first official public statement on the subject Tuesday in response to repeated inquiries from the media.
'We Haven't Seen It,' but ...
"When these kind of issues are raised and we feel concern, we speak out even before the film has been made," she said. "We haven't seen it yet, so we can't speak to the film itself.
Catholic League president William Donohue today issued a response to ADL:
"In its news release of June 24, the ADL seriously misrepresented the position of the Catholic bishops regarding ‘The Passion.’ It said that it had ‘joined with the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in April, 2003 to assemble Jewish and Catholic scholars to evaluate an early version of the movie’s screenplay.’ It then said it welcomed the remarks by the Catholic scholars. But what it didn’t say is telling.
"The ADL did not say that the Catholic panel was unauthorized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Nor did it say that the USCCB has since apologized to Mel Gibson for reviewing a movie it hasn’t seen. Nor did it say that the script was stolen. Nor did it say that both the ADL and the USCCB have returned the stolen screenplay to Gibson’s Icon Productions.
"One person who has seen the movie, and has translated it into Aramaic and Latin, is Jesuit Father William J. Fulco, a National Endowment for the Humanities professor of ancient Mediterranean studies at Loyola Marymount University. He not only insists that the ADL has nothing to worry about — ‘there is no hint of deicide’ — he also says that the specific concerns raised by the ADL are baseless. Is there brutality in the film? Yes. Indeed, it would be historically dishonest to portray the crucifixion in a non-violent manner.
"Every Sunday Catholics recite the 1,700-year-old Nicene Creed, and every time they do they mention that Jesus was ‘crucified under Pontius Pilate.’ They do not say Jesus was killed by the Romans. Nor do they say He was killed by the Jews. They individualize the guilt. That anti-Semitic Christians have sought to blame ‘the Jews’ deserves condemnation. But fairness dictates that Gibson not be put in that camp. As he has said, ‘Neither I nor my film is anti-Semitic.’ That’s good enough for the Catholic League and, we trust, for fair-minded Americans of every religion."
Mel Gibson's 'Passion': Jesus and the Gospels
Rev. Michael Reilly
Some of Mel Gibson's biggest critics are Catholic theologians.
Believe it or not, they are "accusing" him of following the Gospel accounts of Jesus' passion too closely.
In other words, Gibson hasn't consulted them to receive their guidance and direction in understanding the Gospels.
According to some theologians, the Gospels are theological diatribes thoroughly lacking in historical value and accuracy.
Some theologians believe that the Gospels were written long after Christ's passion and therefore are more reflective of the community than they are of the actual events.
Interestingly, one of the main reasons for their later dating of the Gospels centers around the Jews. When Jesus lambastes the Pharisees in the Gospels, this is supposedly representative of a hostility that did not exist between Christians and Jews before 85 A.D., when the Christians were expelled from the synagogues.
I suppose these theologians discount the martyrdom of St. Stephen in 36 A.D. and the persecution of Christians carried out by St. Paul before his conversion.
The earliest and most reliable sources available indicate that the Gospels were written by the apostles and apostolic men not long after the events took place.
St. Irenaeus, instructed by St. Polycarp, the disciple of John the Apostle, informs us that Matthew wrote his Gospel before the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in 64 A.D. and that Mark and Luke wrote at the time of their martyrdom. Modern theologians know better?
Likewise, there is no reason to believe that the evangelists in any way sacrificed accuracy to make a theological point.
Ultimately nearly everything we know about Jesus has been handed down by the four evangelists. If we don't believe what they wrote, why would we call ourselves Christian?
The Rev. Michael Reilly is the vice principal of St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Staten Island, N.Y.
Sunday, June 29, 2003
Focus on the Family Praises Gibson's Film
Under attack for making his film about the passion and death of Jesus, Mel Gibson got some welcome support from religious leaders meeting at Focus on the Family's Colorado Springs Visitors Center.
Gibson brought the film "The Passion" to a gathering of the group's leadership and hundreds of other church leaders in an effort to determine whether the movie was acceptable to them. Among those present was Ted Haggard, New Life’s pastor and president of the National Evangelical Association.
After being viewed by a small audience, with subtitles Gibson said will not be used when the film is released next March, the film received solid approval. The film's dialogue is entirely in Aramaic and Latin, and those who viewed the film urged Gibson to include subtitles when the film is released.
"It conveys, more accurately than any other film, who Jesus was," Haggard told the Colorado Springs Gazette based on clips he viewed at the conference. "You can’t help but be upset when you realize the gravity of what Jesus went through."
Added Don Hodel, President of Focus on the Family, "I was very impressed. It’s certainly the most powerful portrayal of the passion I’ve ever seen or heard about. The movie is historically and theologically accurate."
"I’m not a preacher and I’m not a pastor," Gibson said. "But I really feel my career was leading me to make this. The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic. I hope the film has the power to evangelize."
After Gibson spoke to the gathering, Haggard said, "I’ve been pastor at New Life Church for 18 years, and I don’t remember anyone displaying a fear of God on our platform the way Mel did today."
Gibson, who financed the $25 million film out of his own pocket, told 800 religious leaders about the effect making the film and co-authoring the script had on him.
He said he attended Mass every morning during shooting because "we had to be squeaky clean just working on this."
"It was a strange mixture of the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, along with this incredible ease," Gibson said. "Everyone who worked on this movie was changed. There were agnostics and Muslims on set converting to Christianity."
According to the Gazette, when Haggard thanked Gibson for making the film, Gibson said, "I was afraid not to."
Tuesday, July 1, 2003
Rabbi, Pastor Spar Over Gibson's 'Passion'
The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of National Association of Evangelicals, is hotly defending Mel Gibson's "The Passion" against charges that the movie is anti-Semitic.
Appearing on CNN Monday night with anchorman Anderson Cooper, Haggard verbally sparred with Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
Though Hier has not seen the film, he said it could inspire anti-Semitism because it was based on the writings of two 18th-century nuns who espoused anti-Semitism, he claimed.
"On top of that, Mel Gibson has said he doesn't believe in the accomplishments of Vatican II. He belongs to a church that doesn't believe the accomplishments of Vatican II. And Vatican II to Jews is very important because it exonerated Jews from the charge of deicide for which millions of Jews have been murdered through the ages," Hier said. Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., insisted that the film was firmly rooted in the New Testament.
"Yes, well, I have seen the movie," the minister said. "And Mel Gibson was here himself, and he spoke in our church to a group of about 900 Christian leaders. Then we came to another studio, and about 30 of us who are evangelical leaders watched the movie.
'A Beautiful, Wonderful Account'
"Now, I didn't know about the other sources, but I do know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and the reason Mel Gibson was here is he wanted to know if we thought the movie was consistent with the account in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And I can tell you it is a beautiful, wonderful account.
"It stays very closely to the Scripture. Mel Gibson is an incredible artist. He's done a wonderful job communicating a great story."
Asked if he thought the picture was a form of anti-Semitism, Haggard said: "Not at all. It communicates the last day of Jesus' life here on the Earth. And no different than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do, and no different than 350,000 churches across America celebrate Easter. And in the midst of the Easter celebration they have to tell the story of the crucifixion and everything associated with that." Asked if it were the particular story of the crucifixion or interpretation that had him most concerned, the rabbi said: "Absolutely. Nine scholars, four Catholic and five Jewish scholars, have seen the draft of the script, and their conclusions were it is a matter of grave concern to all of them. There was not a single dissent among the nine who viewed that script. If he's made changes since then, which is only a couple of weeks ago, that will be terrific. That will show the criticism drove the point home." But the committee of liberal religious scholars was not sanctioned by the Catholic bishops, who issued a strongly worded statement in June saying they had not offered any criticism or endorsement of the film, and would wait for its release next year to do so.
Some of the scholars who have challenged Gibson's movie are not so angry with his account as they are with the Bible. These scholars claim that the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the New Testament Gospels to curry favor with the Roman authorities, who ruled the known world at that time. They are unhappy that Gibson stuck to the original text.
"Rabbi, the story is the story," Haggard said. "Certainly the Jewish people know the importance of embracing history and in making sure that in our generation we don't repeat mistakes of the past.
"We don't want revisionist history. We don't want the Gospel accounts changed. We don't want the historical accounts changed. So, this is a beautiful portrayal of what happened in the life of the Lord Jesus."
Hier concluded by insisting he was "not saying Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite. What I am saying is that four Catholic scholars representing the Catholic bishops joined five Jewish scholars, unanimously felt there was a great deal of anti-Semitism in the script. Not only Jews, but Catholics as well, who believed after they read that script that that was the case."
Director-cowriter Gibson has said that "The Passion" is based on the accepted Gospel accounts of Jesus' life and death and that the screenplay has undergone many changes since the Catholic-Jewish committee saw a stolen early draft.
Mel Gibson's 'Passion' Shakes Up Hollywood
Editor's Note: James Hirsen's "Tales From the Left Coast" has already become a best seller. The new book reveals the real story behind the controversy over Mel Gibson’s film "The Passion." Hirsen has recently seen the film and details Hollywood’s anti-Christian agenda. In just one week, "Tales from the Left Coast" has become a national best seller. Check it out –Click Here. http://www.newsmax.com/leftcoast/index2.htmlhttp://www.newsmax.com/leftcoast/index2.html
In "Tales From the Left Coast," I reveal how the same Hollywood that holds itself up as a place of tolerance and inclusion is hostile to folks who are conservative, Republican or Christian.
Case in point is Mel Gibson, a devout Catholic who is being skewered on the "liberal" barbecue pit of Tinseltown.
Mel made a mistake because he openly professed his faith in - dare I say it? - Jesus Christ.
As Jennifer O’Neill says in "Tales," "There are a lot of ‘closet Christians’ in Hollywood because they innately know there exists black-balling and prejudice against professed believers in the entertainment business."
Some folks in Hollywood, the media and certain special-interest groups are extremely uncomfortable with Gibson’s latest project, "The Passion." The film is a lifelike depiction of the last hours of Jesus Christ.
Recently, I was invited to see the film. I can’t discuss its specific contents. But I can reveal that this film is not going to demean Christianity, as other flicks such as "The Last Temptation of Christ" have done.
Instead, Mel is actually using Scripture as his source. And he’s telling the literal truth.
Tolerant "liberals" apparently can’t stand for this type of material being disseminated. Unprecedented leaks to the press by people using false affiliations and stolen scripts have occurred almost a year before the scheduled release date.
But the most nefarious attempt to undermine Gibson’s project has involved his family. To get attention, gain leverage or create trouble for the project, some in the press have been scrutinizing Gibson’s 85-year old father. That’s off-limits in anybody’s book. (When was the last time you heard a member of the press bash Barbra Streisand’s mother?)
At the time of my screening of the film, I had the privilege of meeting Mel.
The film is simply a cinematic prayer. It is a faith-deepening experience. In fact, a well-known pastor in Southern California, Greg Laurie of Harvest Crusade, indicated that he had seen every film about Jesus ever made but that he had never seen anything with the authenticity and power of this work.
With the anti-Christian resistance Mel Gibson faces, to continue steadfastly with this project takes the courage of a "Braveheart" and the fervor of a "Patriot." "The Passion" is in good hands.
Monday, July 21, 2003
New Republic Attacks Mel Gibson
The smear campaign against Mel Gibson's "The Passion" by people who haven't even seen the movie continues. Gibson's defenders, however, refuse to be silenced.
William Donohue, president of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, takes issue with Paula Fredriksen's attack in the July 28 edition of The New Republic.
’ "Working with an unauthorized script of 'The Passion,' Paula Fredriksen has declared the movie to be anti-Semitic. Neither she, nor any of her friends who read an early draft of the screenplay, have seen the movie. Nor have they explained how they obtained the purloined script. But that doesn’t matter – what matters is that she has libeled Mel Gibson.
"Fredriksen maintains there are historical inaccuracies in the script," says Donohue, who has seen the movie. He continues, "[I]t would be more honest to say that 'The Passion,' like other renditions of the last twelve hours of Jesus' life, has elements in it that some scholars might question. But this is not her point. Her point is that Gibson has not acceded to her request to 'revise his script substantially.' As if he should. Her arrogance is evident again when she says that she and her colleagues 'functioned with a naiveté that is peculiar to educators: the belief that, once an error is made plain, a person will prefer the truth.' How reassuring it must be for Mel to know that if he wants the truth, all he has to do is give Paula a ring.
"Fredriksen is a demagogue. For only a demagogue would write, 'When violence breaks out, Mel Gibson will have a much higher authority than professors and bishops to answer to.' Note she does not say if violence breaks out, but when. How disappointed she will be when none occurs. For the record, James Shapiro, in his work, Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World's Most Famous Play, has written that the Passion play has never been directly linked to anti-Semitic violence. Never.
"I would agree with Jesuit Father William J. Fulco, a professor of ancient Mediterranean studies and translator of the movie into Aramaic and Latin, that 'there is no hint of deicide' in the film. But this will obviously not do for those bent on discrediting it: they will 'find' anti-Semitism. They don't even have to see it to hate it — they have truth on their side," Donohue concludes.
Stop the Presses: Something Might Happen!
Fredriksen is far from the only critic proudly flaunting her ignorance. The local yokels at the Palm Beach Post haven't seen "The Passion" either, but that doesn't prevent them from attacking it.
Columnist Steve Gushee writes, "Critics, who have yet to see the script, fear that Gibson might resort to badly skewed sources and imply that Jewish people killed the Christian Messiah."
And the left-wing thought police might stop their hypocrisies. Or might not.NewsMax's James Hirsen says the film is a powerful and deeply moving work of art. But then, unlike these nattering nabobs of negativism, he has actually seen an early cut of "The Passion."
Editor's note: Hirsen's new book, "Tales from the Left Coast," reveals the inside story behind "The Passion" and the anti-Christian bias motivating Gibson's detractors.Click here now.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003 10:30 p.m. EDT
Mel Gibson's 'Passion' Rocks Washington
Washington was in a tizzy this week when Hollywood megastar Mel Gibson showed up Monday to have some top media and political folks screen "The Passion" – his new movie about the death of Jesus.
As the Washington Post put it, Gibson is "under fire from Jewish groups and religious scholars for his still-unreleased film that graphically portrays the crucifixion of Jesus."
The Washington screening drew a who's who of Beltway players, including Motion Picture Association of America chief Jack Valenti, who hosted the conclave, as well as commentators Peggy Noonan, Cal Thomas, Kate O'Beirne, Michael Novak, Linda Chavez and others. The movie, described as anti-Semitic by some, who have not seen the film, got solid support from solidly liberal MPAA President Jack Valenti.
"I don't see what the controversy is all about," Valenti was quoted as saying. "This is a compelling piece of art. I just called Kirk Douglas and told him that this is the movie to beat."
But others aren't so happy.
Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman told the Washington Post, "Here's a man who appeals to the mass audience, but he feels he has to surround himself with a cordon sanitaire of people who back him theologically and maybe ideologically and will stand up and be supportive when the time comes. My request still stands: I would like to see the movie, and if it turns out I was wrong, I'll be the first to say so."
We're glad Jack Valenti is seeing this film for what it is: perhaps the most accurate account of Jesus' death as depicted in the Gospels.
We're also glad Valenti has joined us in endorsing the film. NewsMax has been at the cutting edge of the "Passion" story for months.
In late May, NewsMax editor Christopher Ruddy joined Gibson for his first private showing of the film in Los Angeles.
And NewsMax’s Left Coast Report editor James Hirsen also recently screened the film and details the anti-Christian bias behind the controversy in his New York Times best-selling book, "Tales from the Left Coast."
Thursday, July 24, 2003 1 p.m. EDT
Fox Set to Distribute Mel Gibson's Film
Despite critics' claims that Mel Gibson has no distributor to put his blockbuster film "The Passion" into theaters around the country, Gibson does have at least one.
According to Fox News' Roger Friedman, Gibson's company, Icon Entertainment, which produced "The Passion," has a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox.
20th Century Fox is owned by News Corporation, which also owns Fox News.
According to Friedman, 20th Century Fox has a first-look option with Icon and right of refusal.
Fox News says it also has the right to outbid another studio. As a result, "The Passion" right now is a 20th Century Fox film.
Executives from that studio and others have now seen "The Passion," and Friedman says 20th is "rumored to be very interested in distributing the film."
So, when the emotionally charged film, which portrays the final 12 hours of Christ's ordeal, premiers next Easter, it shouldn't have any problems showing up in your neighborhood theater.
Distribution aside, the film remains contoversial.
Friedman writes: "As he did in Washington and in a couple of other cities, Gibson showed the controversial film about Christ's final 12 hours to politicians and clergy who would not argue with his point of view. Question-and-answer sessions after these screenings, according to one insider, have had more to do with the movie's length and whether Gibson will release it with subtitles."
More to come ... no doubt.
'The Passion' Revisited
A few weeks ago, I defended Mel Gibson's upcoming movie, "The Passion," against unwarranted criticism. After having had the privilege of attending a private screening of the movie in Chicago, I am even more convinced of its value.
The movie, which depicts the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ, was so deeply moving and profound one cannot do justice to it by attempting to describe it in words.
The closest I can come to a description is to say that viewing it makes you feel almost like a live witness to the historical events (abbreviated from 12 hours to two hours) as they unfolded. It was not like watching a movie from a detached perspective, but rather being inescapably drawn into the realism of the action.
No punches are pulled here, no emotions are spared, no sensitivities are coddled. It is a depiction of suffering, agony, passion and raw, uncensored violence visited on one man (and God) who volunteered for the indescribable torment out of His sheer love for humankind.
I am sure that Gibson chose stark realism not for the sake of shock and awe or sensationalism, but to recreate as accurate a portrayal of the historical events as humanly possible. The viewer sees the scourging because there was scourging, he sees blood because there was blood, he sees pain because there was pain.
Ironically, many of the attacks on the project are based on its alleged inaccuracy. Some Christian "scholars" are panning the movie, without having seen it and based on a purloined and now obsolete movie script, because of its dubious historicity and theology.
Gibson erred, they say, not by deviating too much from scripture, but by trying to adhere to it too closely. These "experts" believe they know better than the eyewitnesses to the events what did and didn't happen and what Jesus did and didn't say. Manifestly, their quarrel is not with Mel Gibson, but with the Bible.
As "The Passion" makes clear in terms I could never adequately express, the Gospel message is not reserved for Ph.D.s and biblical scholars. It is simple enough for children to understand, but profound enough to rescue the entire human race and all of its wickedness.
Certain Jewish groups are criticizing the movie, saying it is anti-Semitic and will inflame anti-Semitic sentiments among those who view it. While anti-Semitism in the world is real and we've even witnessed a disturbing resurrection of its infernal irrepressibility throughout the world in recent years, this movie is not an example of it. Quite the opposite.
The movie endeavors to show the historical events "as they went down," without any editorial comment or innuendo, and especially without judgmentalism. It is not about blame and finger pointing, but love and redemption. It does not convey a message of selective condemnation, but universal hope. After all, as sinners, we are all culpable in Christ's death, as Gibson points out, careful to confess his own responsibility.
I believe one of Mel Gibson's main purposes is to use the medium he knows best to spread the Gospel message, which is essentially one of love and eternal life. And the way Gibson has decided to share that message is to focus on the price Christ paid to redeem mankind.
We are so removed from Christ's suffering that we could, if not careful, view the Gospel as a mere mathematical equation. The sacrificial death of the sinless God-incarnate cancels out the past, present and future sins of all those who place their faith in Him. But this is real life, not an abstract exercise.
God didn't just zap out man's sinfulness by divine edict. Being a God of perfect justice and unlimited mercy, He had to deal with sin – that is, physically and spiritually deal with it. The Son, while still 100 percent God, humbled and demeaned Himself to become man, to suffer all the indignities of human existence, to become separated from the Father with whom He was united in perfect love and harmony, and to suffer His full wrath for the sum of all mankind's sins.
We must understand that for this equation to work, for man's redemption to be possible, Christ's suffering, His anxiety, His despair, His sense of betrayal and His separation from the Father had to actually occur in the flesh. "The Passion" emphasizes the reality of Christ's substitutionary suffering in the flesh. In terms that words alone cannot articulate, "The Passion" homes in on the full value of the ransom Christ paid for all of us in the greatest demonstration and act of love ever exhibited.
Copyright 2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Mel Gibson's Passion
Mel Gibson's film "The Passion," which is about the last 12 hours of Christ's life, is the object of campaign vilification and book-burning by a committee of Christians and Jews who want to shut it down before it is shown, or edit it to their own politically (or religiously) correct standards. Paula Fredriksen is a spokeswoman for this committee. The New Republic has shamed itself by printing her ill-informed and bigoted attack on the film.
Unlike Fredriksen and others who want to destroy the film before they have seen it, I have seen "The Passion." It is not an attempt to portray the historical Jesus – which is the subject of Fredriksen's entire screed – nor could it be. By Fredriksen's own account there is no evidentiary basis for such a portrait, and if anyone tried to create one it would be eviscerated by the same Savanarolas, precisely because no one can know what the truth is.
Gibson's film is an artistic vision and must be judged that way. Like others who have seen the film, I am sworn to keep details confidential so that it gets its chance when the distributors present it to the viewing public next Easter. However, I will say this: It is an awesome artifact, an overpowering work. I can't remember being so affected by a film before.
It is extremely painful to watch and yet the violence is never gratuitous. You never feel as if you want to take your eyes off the screen. It is a wracking emotional journey that never strays from its inspirational purpose. It is as close to a religious experience as art can get.
It is not anti-Semitic, as the film-burners have charged. Two illustrative details: Jesus is referred to in the film as "rabbi," and there is never any distancing of Jesus or his disciples from their Jewishness. (One point missed by ignorant bigots like Fredriksen, whose only familiarity with "The Passion" is with a stolen script, is that while the film is in Aramaic – a brilliant effect that enhances the symbolic resonance of the story – it has subtitles.) Second detail: A Jew carries Jesus' cross along the terrible route to Golgotha and shares his miseries.
But yes, the film is also faithful to the Gospels, and therefore the Pharisees are Jesus' enemies and they and their flock do call for Jesus' death (and why wouldn't they, since Jesus was a threat to their authority and their beliefs?).
But all this is to miss the point. This is a Christian parable. The cruelty, intolerance and lack of compassion of human beings is limitless – and we who have lived through the 20th century know this all too well. The moral of this Christian story – of Mel Gibson's film – is that we all killed Jesus – Jew and Gentile alike – and tortured him, and we do so every day.
But if you believe the vision that Gibson has rendered so searingly and so well, Jesus forgives us for that very act. Whosoever will give up cruelty and love his brother will enter paradise. That is the message that Gibson has framed in his extraordinary work. The effort to shut down his film before it opens is just another station of the cross.
* * * * * *
David Horowitz is a nationally known author, lifelong civil rights activist and founder of the New Left movement in the 1960s. His autobiography, "Radical Son," chronicles his odyssey from radical activism to the current positions he holds.
He has penned numerous other books including "The Politics of Bad Faith," "The Art of Political War" and his latest book, "Uncivil Wars," which chronicles his crusade against intolerance and racial McCarthyism on college campuses last spring.
Since 1988 he has served as president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a vehicle group for his campaigns and his online newsmagazine, FrontPageMag.com.
Friday, Aug. 8, 2003
Gibson's Aide Exposes New York Times' Frank Rich
Left-wing columnist Frank Rich's bizarre attack on Mel Gibson's "The Passion" was even more ignorant than previously known.
Not only has Rich never seen the movie, he also is continuing the New York Times' recently exposed tradition of publishing fiction.
Rich had falsely claimed that Gibson's highly regarded publicist Alan Nierob used "p.r. spin to defend a Holocaust denier."
Since earlier this year, the Times has continually tried to suggest and imply that Gibson was a Holocaust denier. Frank's column was just one more distortion.
The Times doesn't seem to be interested in reporting that Gibson has never made such claims. In fact, Gibson not only believes the Holocaust took place, he also knows people who survived the death camps.
"This is another perfect example of shoddy journalism and distorting the facts at the New York Times," Nierob is quoted as saying in today's Page Six section of the New York Post.
"How dare Frank Rich label me a 'defender of a Holocaust denier,' when, if he did any checking at all, he would have known that I am a second-generation Holocaust survivor myself and a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C."
Facts, of course, won't deter the likes of Rich, who hasn't squealed about such movies as "The Last Temptation of Christ," "The Exorcist," "Priest" and "Stigmata."
Response to Frank Rich
James Hirsen, NewsMax.com
In his Aug. 3 column in the New York Times, art and entertainment columnist Frank Rich engaged in a vicious attempt at the vilest kind of innuendo. Since the New York Times has failed to print my letter to the editor submitted Aug. 4, I am posting the following to set the record straight.
While Rich is correct that I am the author of the best seller"Tales from the Left Coast" and "one of Gibson’s most passionate defenders," his use of isolated, incomplete excerpts to impugn my character amounts to journalistic malpractice. Rich’s piece also has additional inaccuracies and oversights that I must address.
The columnist suggests that in my book the disclosure of Bob Dylan’s real name is somehow a shrouded communication of something more sinister. Odd how it doesn’t take any decoding to understand Rich’s reference to Matt Drudge as a "token Jew."
Rich claims that the timing of the portion of my book that exposes the attempts to vilify Mel Gibson came before the attacks on the film began. He writes that "no one was criticizing ‘The Passion’ when Hirsen wrote that sentence. …"
Rich is just plain wrong."Tales from the Left Coast" was released in July of this year. The attacks began in the form of members of the press digging up dirt on Mel Gibson as far back as January. Other public attacks occurred in March and May. Rich apparently views Christopher Noxon’s New York Times Magazine article from last March as some sort of puff piece when it is really something Rich ought to know well – a hit piece.
Rich cites a chapter from my book where he correctly quotes my language that "faith is often the subject of ridicule and negative portrayal in Hollywood." He then refers to a film, which I use to illustrate the point, as "bizarre." Rich conveniently ignores the example that immediately precedes it, a film called "Wholly Moses," which offends Christians and Jews, both of whom hold the Old Testament in high esteem.
Rich also did not see, or ignored, my book’s treatment of PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk’s infamous statement, the one in which Newkirk compares the killing of chickens to what I describe as the "untold suffering, maximum depravity, and wholesale evil of the Holocaust."
Rich’s complaints are not really based on differences in religion but instead are grounded in political ideology. Mere paranoia cannot explain his absurd extrapolations. Maybe his decoder ring is in need of repair.
James Hirsen is NewsMax's Hollywood correspondent and edits the Left Coast Report.
Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003
Mel Gibson Softens 'The Passion'
Director Mel Gibson, under attack from Jewish groups for his movie "The Passion," has "softened the story" and made changes to placate critics, a spokesman says.
Gibson has edited the film to show more "sympathetic" Jewish characters who were not calling for Jesus to be crucified, said Paul Lauer, marketing director for Gibson's Icon Productions.
"We believe we have softened the story compared to the way the Gospel has told it," Religion News Service quotes Lauer as saying.
He mentioned Matthew 27:25, in which the Jewish mob calls for Jesus' blood "to be on us and on our children."
"That's in the Gospel," he said. "It's not in our film."
Religion News Service reported: "In addition, Lauer said the character of Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to carry the cross for Jesus, will be clearly labeled a Jew in the film. A shouting mob will include voices opposing the execution, Lauer said. Faced with vocal Jewish opposition, Gibson is mounting a pre-emptive public relations offensive to counter his critics - all for a film that is still being edited. After regional screenings, Gibson has lingered with his audiences to listen to their advice.
"In an effort to soothe concerns, Gibson is also hoping to launch 'The Jewish Initiative' to recruit Jewish and Christian leaders to discuss the film's effects on Christian-Jewish relations."
Lauer said, "We've gone out of our way to accommodate this process because we felt it was necessary and important, and to show that we care and that we're not callously sitting back saying, 'Screw you, we're going to make the film we want to make.'"
The New York Times, a loud critic of the movie without having seen it, in early August quoted Lauer as saying "there is no way on God's green earth" that "dishonorable" critics such as Abraham Foxman, national director of Anti-Defamation League, would be invited to previews.
'Very Concerned About This Feedback'
However, Lauer told CNN last night that Gibson would meet with "eight to 10 significant Jewish leaders over the next 30 days" to "invite their dialogue, their feedback."
"We are very concerned about this feedback, and we are processing that feedback, and we have always planned on inviting this kind of dialogue," he said on "NewsNight with Aaron Brown."
The onslaught has upset Gibson, Lauer said. "It's hurt him a great deal. He has many close Jewish friends. He's worked with Jewish people in his career, in - certainly in the movie industry for 25 years. He's never been accused of any degree of anti-Semitism or hatred or bigotry."
Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003
Simon Wiesenthal Center Urges Mel Gibson
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that the controversy over Mel Gibson's yet-to-be-released film "The Passion" has generated an unprecedented wave of hate mail and calls to the Jewish human rights group over the Center's endorsement of changes to the film proposed by Christian and Jewish scholars.
In one of the letters that the Wiesenthal Center received soon after the film was screened in Colorado Springs, Colo., the writer said, in part, "What this tells me is that you do not want the real truth to be shown on a public setting that will remind millions of Americans that the jews [sic] were in fact totally responsible for the death of Jesus Christ."
The letter continued, "I don't endorse terrorism of any kind but the odds are that some of these enlightened folks will go for the throat of you jews [sic] and some of your offices of hate such as the ADL main office in New York, or maybe even the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Every time I hear of a suicide bomber killing jews in Israel I think to myself YES!"
"We fully understand that the crucifixion is central to the belief of more than a billion Christians and in no way do we want to impede Mr. Gibson's right to make a film," said Rabbi Hier. "However, we urge that he make some of the changes suggested to him by the distinguished group of Catholic and Jewish experts in the field to help ensure that the Jewish people are not yet again falsely singled out as being responsible for the death of Jesus."
The Center is also seeking a dialogue with leading Christian leaders to discuss the matter further.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations, with a membership of over 400,000 families in the United States. The Center is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO and the OSCE.
Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003
Legislator Tries to Censor Mel Gibson's 'The Passion'
New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind has planned a press conference Thursday to demand that 20th Century Fox not distribute Mel Gibson’s movie "The Passion," says Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights.
Hikind asserts that the film "resurrects the age-old canard of deicide" and "can incite anti-Semitic violence."
Catholic League president William A. Donohue said today:
The furor over Mel Gibson’s film has now reached a fever pitch. Assemblyman Hikind’s response is an example of how reaction to "The Passion" has spilled into hysteria.
Assemblyman Hikind has alleged that the movie implicates all Jews in the crucifixion, a common misconception of those who haven’t seen the movie. In fact, absolutely nothing in the film is inconsistent with Nostra Aetate, which repudiated the idea of collective guilt of the Jewish people for Jesus’ death.
The contention that the film ‘will spur anti-Semitic fervor’ is nonsense. Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, after seeing the film, commented, ‘You can quote me — Mel Gibson’s 'The Passion' is not anti-Semitic. I did not see any anti-Semitism in it.’
If the Catholic League for one moment thought this would inspire anti-Semitism, it would condemn the movie. Indeed, just last year, the league joined with Dov Hikind and other Jews in calling for a boycott of New York’s Jewish Museum, which exhibited art that trivialized the Holocaust.
Having seen the movie twice, I agree with the hundreds of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews who have now seen ‘The Passion.’ It is near unanimous: this movie will not foment anti-Semitism. Any such blind charges are vacuous.
Monday, Sept. 15, 2003 11:45 a.m. EDT
Liz Smith Supports Mel Gibson
Powerful New York Post gossip columnist Liz Smith has joined the voices of those supporting Mel Gibson and his controversial film "The Passion."
Writing in Monday's Post, Smith said considering the fact that the Jewish people have endured so much over the centuries "I am sure they can endure Mel Gibson's controversial movie about the final hours of the life of Jesus Christ, 'The Passion.' "
And she added this barb for many of Gibson's critics: It is unfair "for everybody to carry on so before most people have even seen this film."
"Those who have even a pretense of intelligence already know what's in the four gospels on which this immortal tale is based. People are free to accept or reject this story that the New Testament tells and they have been doing so for over 2,000 years. Some believe it, some don't," she wrote.
She explains that since God gave us free will, we are all free to accept or reject Christianity, but, she warns, we cannot rewrite history, "so it is useless to blame whoever 'killed' Jesus so long ago."
Smith added that, by the same token, she hopes she won't be blamed "for what some of my outlaw Texas forebears did to the Comanche and Apache as they took over their land."
The Murmur Maven also defended Gibson's graphic portrayal of Christ's intense suffering, saying she was amazed that some critics have condemned the film out of hand for "showing massive gratuitous violence. What do people think a crucifixion was - a tea party? It was a pretty awful way to die and the Romans had it down to a science."
Gibson, she wrote, is, after all, a moviemaker, "but he is not a whitewasher. He allowed them to film what appeared to be his disembowelment in 'Braveheart.' So he hasn't held back here and I don't quite know how he could, unless he wanted to show the crucifixion as a sanitized Renaissance painting. That's pretty much the way Hollywood has always shown Jesus."
Content to blame the ancient Romans for Christ's crucifixion, the Doyenne of Dish says she's going to leave it at that, and will "keep on visiting Italy and modern-day Romans whenever I like."
Monday, Sept. 15, 2003
O'Reilly: Elite Media out to Destroy Mel Gibson
Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly said tonight that the elite media have been vicious in their attacks on Mel Gibson and are out to destroy him.
"You have an elite media which [have] an agenda and the agenda is destroy Mel Gibson because we don't like the concept of what he's doing, basing a movie on the Gospels - we don't like that - so we are going to destroy him personally," O'Reilly said during an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor" with New Yorker writer Peter Boyer, who agreed with the host that some of the media attacks on Gibson and his film "The Passion" have been "hateful."
Boyer, who has written a 15-page New Yorker story about Gibson and his film, explained that "There are a group of folks who the minute Mel Gibson announced he was going to make a film about the last hours of Jesus Christ based on the New Testament - based on the Gospels - there were folks who were worried by that, and I'm only guessing that these columnists - these reporters are attuned to that point of view."
In his New Yorker story, Boyer made clear that what bothered these people - a group of nine scholars - was the fact that Gibson was basing his film on the Gospels, which they view as unreliable.
"Any dramatization of Christ's passion that is based on the Gospels is going to be objectionable," Boyer said, remarking that the critics "have excused themselves from the question of Jesus' divinity."
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003
Vatican Cardinal Wants 'Everyone in the World' to See Gibson's 'The Passion'
Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion" has won another ringing endorsement from the Vatican.
"I would gladly trade some of the homilies that I have given about the passion of Christ for even a few of the scenes of his film," Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos says in an interview published today in the newspaper La Stampa.
As for naysayers and would-be censors who haven't even seen the movie: "Anti-Semitism, like all forms of racism, distorts the truth by putting an entire race in a bad light. This film does nothing of the kind."
He saw an unfinished version of the film that director Gibson brought to Rome.
"I felt moments of deep spiritual intimacy with Jesus Christ," said Hoyos, one of the Vatican's most prominent cardinals and Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
Hoyos is also a leader of a Vatican commission trying to bring conservative traditionalists back to the church.
"I would like all Catholic priests in the world to see this film. I hope that all Christians can see it, everyone in the world."
Rejecting complaints about the movie's violence, he said "The Passion" depicted "the horror of sin and egoism and the redemptive power of love."
William Donohue, president of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, stated: "The big winner in this is Mel Gibson. The big loser is the ad hoc committee of scholars who condemned the movie without seeing it.
"Regarding the latter group, the most embarrassed must be the Catholic scholars. They were the ones who read a stolen script of the screenplay and then set themselves up as the supreme authority on the New Testament. Now they look rather silly."
Why Won't Anti-Defamation League
Attack Woody Allen's 'Anti-Semitism'?
"Forget Mel Gibson — the new anti-Semitism is coming from Woody," Fox News' entertainment reporter Roger Friedman wrote today.
In "Anything Else," his absolutely dreadful new comedy (and I use that term loosely), Allen plays an enigmatic, violent, self-loathing Jew. At one point, his character, called David Dobel, refers to Danny DeVito’s character, a talent agent, as "your Jew manager. Hey, I’m a member of the Tribe," he tells Jason Biggs’ character, Jerry, "but you know what I mean."
It’s maybe the strangest and most unforgiving moment in any Woody Allen movie. Is it Dobel speaking or Allen? And, either way, is it necessary?
It doesn’t help that DeVito’s character, depicted as the kind of agent who uses garment-center metaphors to describe everything artistic, is named Harvey Wexler. With his roly-poly mien and garrulous personality, DeVito’s caricature of a shrill, unlikable, easily mocked Broadway Danny Rose type is not exactly hard to figure out. I just can’t believe DeVito didn’t know what he was doing at the time. ...
Dobel is an anti-Semite who fears anti-Semitism. He is passive-aggressively violent and has perhaps a sinister backstory. He says he has guns within reach in every room in his house. Toward the end of the movie he does something extremely violent off-camera — provoked, he says, because his victim told him "the Holocaust was really just a theme park."
In my screening, you could hear a pin drop when Allen said that line. No one laughed, trust me.
New Yorker Exposes Dishonesty of Mel Gibson's Critics
Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com
Some of the leading critics of Mel Gibson’s movie "The Passion" have been dishonest in their attacks, and the media have let them get away with it.
In an exhaustive examination of the controversy, noted writer Peter J. Boyer explains in the New Yorker's Sept. 15 edition the murky background of the assaults on Gibson and his film.
The major complaint sparked by a group of "liberal" scholars was not that the film is anti-Semitic, which most admit it is not, but that it is based on the Four Gospels, which the group scorns as inaccurate.
The group was not an official body of the Catholic bishops' organization but rather a committee formed, long before the movie's completion, by an employee of the bishops and the head of Anti-Defamation League.
In a 15-page article titled "The Jesus Wars," Boyer explains how an allegedly official body of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was anything but an authorized group representing the bishops, who had to issue a statement denying any connection with the group of self-identified scholars.
Most media accounts, however, continue to identify the group as associated with the USCCB.
Moreover, Boyer’s meticulous reporting makes clear that the movie’s alleged anti-Semitic content was not the prime reason for the scholars’ attack - it is instead an assault on the accuracy of the Holy Bible, specifically the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The genesis of the group is startling.
Boyer traces the beginnings of the controversy back to a badly flawed New York Times story by free-lance journalist Christopher Noxon last March 9 in which Gibson’s 85-year-old father, Hutton, is described as a adherent of the Traditionalist Catholic movement, which dissents from much of the work of the Vatican II council.
Mel Gibson is also a traditionalist who will attend only the Latin Tridentine Mass and has built a church where that Mass is celebrated, the story said.
Progressives vs. Tradition
As it turns out, Noxon's family owns property near Gibson's Malibu church, a fact that apparently sparked his interest in covering the story. Noxon tells NewsMax, however, that his father, a member of the area's local homeowner association, did not oppose Gibson's building of the church. In fact, he voted for its approval.
In his story Noxon implied that Gibson’s film, then being filmed in Italy, might, as the New Yorker said, "serve as a propaganda vehicle" for Gibson’s Traditionalist views. (And the New York Times might start printing the truth. Or might not.)
Writes Boyer: "The Times story caught the attention of a group of activists, scholars and clerics who make up what is known as the interfaith community" – a group of eggheads he describes as "progressives," deeply involved in the interfaith movement.
These people, Boyer notes, were anything but comforted that "Mel Gibson was basing his movie upon the Gospels, even if he weren’t a Traditionalist Catholic."
Therein lies the root of the whole controversy. In their great wisdom and scholarship these "progressives" have concluded that the Gospels, which Christians believe were inspired by the Holy Spirit and the authentic word of God, cannot be trusted.
Moreover, when read by non-scholars they could be construed as being anti-Semitic – a strange idea considering that they were written by Jews about Jesus, who was Jewish, and their fellow apostles, who were also Jewish, and the earliest adherents of Christianity, who were overwhelmingly Jewish.
"One cannot assume that by simply conforming to the New Testament, that anti-semitism will not be promoted," the scholars said in a statement.
This is where it gets interesting. Having read the Times' screed, a leading member of the so-called interfaith community, Eugene Fisher, discussed the film with an old friend, Abraham Foxman, the head of Anti-Defamation League, now one of the sternest critics of "The Passion."
Foxman, Boyer reports, had even written to Gibson seeking assurances that the picture "would not give rise to the old canard of charging Jews with deicide and to anti-Semitism."
It was at this point that the group of scholars became an organization.
So Helpful, So Modern
"Fisher and Foxman agreed to convene a small ad hoc group of like-minded colleagues, and to offer their help to Gibson in making his film conform to contemporary doctrine."
Contemporary doctrine, it appears, is that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Four Gospels. "We do not know who wrote the Gospels," says Duke University’s E.P. Sanders.
Airily dismissing 2000 years of Christian doctrine and tradition that the Bible is the authentic word of God, Sanders holds what Boyer describes as "the consensus view, that the Gospels were written anonymously by early Church teachers and were later assigned to the four evangelists saints, perhaps to bestow legitimacy."
Sic semper inerrancy.
Sanders, like most investigators of historical Jesus, believes that the Jewish high priests wanted Jesus dead because He drove the money changers out of the temple. But not all these alleged investigators agree on this.
One of the more extreme views is held by professor Paula Frederickson, described by Catholic League president William Donohue as a "demagogue" and another vehement critic of Gibson.
According to Boyer, Frederickson’s own personal gospel proclaims that it was all Pilate’s fault – he feared Jesus was too popular and wanted to kill him in order to warn the Jews against rebelling against Roman rule.
After vainly trying to get their hands on a script of "The Passion," the scholars mysteriously acquired a stolen copy of an early script. Hah! they discovered - it was just what they suspected – based on those four discredited Gospels and filled with unflattering descriptions of the Jews of that era.
By the way, this was a very preliminary script, and most of the descriptive parts to which the scholars objected had long since been ignored during the filming.
One member of the group, Sister Mary Boys of New York’s left-leaning Union Theological Seminary, told the anti-Catholic Los Angeles Times that her group was worried that the film, which was nowhere near completed at the time, would somehow incite anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Eugene Korn, a colleague of Foxman at ADL, warned Gibson that if he didn’t respond to the scholars' group the "controversy will certainly heat up."
The "scholars" were now using anti-Semitism as their line of attack and glossing over their real concern that Gibson had dared to rely on the Gospels they had in their great wisdom discredited.
When a colleague of Gibson ripped into Fisher he quickly backpedaled on the claims of anti-Semitism and called them "absolutely untrue."
Gibson simply ignored the scholars’ demand that the film be redone. "We believe that the steps needed to correct these difficulties will require major revisions," a report sent to Gibson’s Icon Productions stated.
If this demand smacked of arrogance and censorship, Frederickson went it one better on the hubris scale.
According to Boyer, she insisted that "The Passion" relied on an "uninformed" reading of the Gospels, as well as the writings of two nuns who bore the stigmata. She then pronounced a charge akin to excommunication in the rarefied atmosphere of academia: "He doesn’t even have a Ph.D on his staff," she sniffed.
Gibson’s reaction to all of this was vintage Braveheart. Scholars, he told Boyer, always mess around with the Gospels.
"Judas is always some kind of friend of some kind of freedom fighter named Barabbas. You know what I mean?" He called this "revisionist bulls**t … and that’s what these academics are into … it’s like they were more or less saying I have no right to interpret the Gospels myself because I don’t have a bunch of letters after my name."
Gibson's Advice to Egghead Perverts
The Gospels, Gibson told Boyer, are for children and old people and those in between and "not necessarily for academics. Just get an academic on board if you want to pervert something," he said.
After the media falsely reported that the group of scholars had been appointed by the USCCB – an impression Fisher, the associate director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs, gave when he used a USCCB letterhead in writing to Icon, the bishops responded. They declared, "Neither the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, nor by other committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, established this group, or authorized, reviewed or approved the report issued by its members."
At this point Braveheart had had enough.
A sleazy column by New York Times arts and entertainment editor Frank Rich set him reaching for his claymore. "I want to kill him," he fumed to Boyer. "I want his intestines on a stick … I want to kill his dog."
It was these lines, of course, that attracted the most attention among those in the media who reported details of Boyer’s article. Nobody seems to have noticed the fascinating background Boyer had provided.
Even though their attacks on "The Passion" are based on cries of anti-Semitism, the majority of the critics, including Fisher and Foxman, admit that the movie is not anti-Semitic.
But they say that by relying on the Gospels as their sources, Gibson’s film might (or might not) create feelings of anti-Semitism among some viewers. This ignores the reality that only those already harboring anti-Semitic thoughts could be so affected by a rendering of Holy Scripture.
No rational person, for example, ever charged that Gibson’s previous films "The Patriot" and "Braveheart" would spark hatred of the British, nor has anyone suggested that "The Passion" might inflame anti-Italian feelings by depicting the role played by the Romans in brutally torturing and crucifying Christ.
What They're Really Trying to Censor
It has apparently not occurred to Foxman and other Jewish critics that they have been conned into providing cover for the members of the committee they helped to create, by making the phony charge of anti-Semitism while the scholars’ real objection is to the use of the Gospels as the film’s source.
Said Gibson: "I wanted to be true to the Gospels. That has never been done." And that’s what the fuss is really all about.
Wrote Father Michael Reilly in NewsMax.com: "Some of Mel Gibson's biggest critics are Catholic theologians. Believe it or not, they are ‘accusing’ him of following the Gospel accounts of Jesus' passion too closely. In other words, Gibson hasn't consulted them to receive their guidance and direction in understanding the Gospels."
Reilly continued: "According to some theologians, the Gospels are theological diatribes thoroughly lacking in historical value and accuracy. Some theologians believe that the Gospels were written long after Christ's passion and therefore are more reflective of the community than they are of the actual events.
"Interestingly, one of the main reasons for their later dating of the Gospels centers around the Jews. When Jesus lambastes the Pharisees in the Gospels, this is supposedly representative of a hostility that did not exist between Christians and Jews before 85 A.D., when the Christians were expelled from the synagogues.
"I suppose these theologians discount the martyrdom of St. Stephen in 36 A.D. and the persecution of Christians carried out by St. Paul before his conversion. The earliest and most reliable sources available indicate that the Gospels were written by the apostles and apostolic men not long after the events took place.
"St. Irenaeus, instructed by St. Polycarp, the disciple of John the Apostle, informs us that Matthew wrote his Gospel before the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in 64 A.D. and that Mark and Luke wrote at the time of their martyrdom. Modern theologians know better?
"Ultimately nearly everything we know about Jesus has been handed down by the four evangelists. If we don't believe what they wrote, why would we call ourselves Christian?"
Another aspect of Boyer's report that has not gotten any attention is Gibson’s explanation of why he insisted that the film’s dialogue be in Aramaic and Latin, a decision that has been widely criticized.
Gibson explained that he wanted to avoid having 2,000-year-old biblical characters speaking perfect modern or even King James English. "I’ve always wanted to make a Viking movie," he told Boyer, explaining that having the fearsome Viking invaders of England, bent on murder and rape, mouthing lines such as "Oh fair Maiden" or "I want to die with my sword in my hand" would be silly.
"If they come with low, guttural German they are frightening. They are terrifying. They’re like demons from the sea. So that’s what the language thing did for me. I took something away from you – you had to depend on the image."
Gibson has now relented, however, and agreed to include subtitles.
It is worth noting that many prominent American Jews, such as David Horowitz, Matt Drudge, Orthodox Jewish author David Klinghoffer and Michael Medved, have praised "The Passion" and denounced claims that it is anti-Semitic.
Anti-Defamation League's Foxman Brands Gibson an 'Anti-Semite'
Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com
Also see:Why Does ADL Fail to Criticize the 'Anti-Semite' Woody Allen?
The head of the nation's most influential Jewish organization has charged that Mel Gibson is an "anti-Semite."
Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman had previously avoided affixing the label on Gibson, who directed "The Passion," a movie about the last 12 hours of Jesus.
In a biting article published in The Jewish Week, Foxman charged, "Recent statements by Mel Gibson paint the portrait of an anti-Semite," and said the star was spouting "classic anti-Semitism."
Repeating the charge that Gibson's movie negatively portrays Jews, a claim that those who have actually seen "The Passion" heatedly refute, the story notes that "no mainstream Christian or Jewish community leader has until now made such a direct charge against Gibson …."
Instead, so-called "interfaith critics" – a panel of nine scholars co-founded by Foxman before the film was made, who falsely represented themselves as a committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and who are angry that the film is based on the four Gospels they regard as unreliable - have focused on the "bloody movie." They claim that "by promoting the 2,000-year-old charge of Christ killers against Jews [an equally false charge], the film would fuel anti-Semitism around the world."
Foxman uses Gibson’s 85-year-old father, Hutton, to attack the filmmaker. Foxman says that the elder Gibson has been quoted as saying that far fewer Jews died in the Holocaust than 6 million and that he is a conspiracist claiming Jews are behind recent Vatican reforms.
"There’s no longer a debate where [Mel Gibson] is coming from," Foxman said Tuesday. "He is a true believer that the true story of the suffering [of Jesus] is that the Jews made him suffer."
Foxman blasted Gibson for telling New Yorker writer Peter J. Boyer that he portrays himself as being persecuted like Jesus for making the film, and as a victim of a murderous cabal who forced him to make changes in the film that could end his career.
Among Foxman’s other charges:
Gibson told Boyer he was sorry he removed a scene in which the high priest recites the curse from the Gospel of Matthew proclaiming that the blood of Jesus is upon him and his children. "But, man, if I included that in there, they’d be coming after me at my house, they’d come kill me."
Gibson accused "modern secular Judaism" of blaming "the Holocaust on the Catholic Church. And it’s a lie. And it’s revisionism. And they’ve been working on that one for a while."
"When you put those things together," said Foxman, "that is a portrait of an anti-Semite. To me this is classic anti-Semitism."
Gibson’s spokesman Alan Nierob told The Jewish Week that this was the first time he’s heard a charge of anti-Semitism directed at Gibson.
"It’s an irresponsible statement," Nierob said. "I won’t even dignify it with a response."
A Response to Frank Rich & the Times
Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com
New York Times art critic Frank Rich has come unhinged – again. Stung by complaints about his intemperate attacks on Mel Gibson and his film "The Passion," the liberal columnist has once again dipped his pen in malice and written a new screed calumniating Gibson and the film.
He opens his latest attack on Gibson for being ... gasp ... a "movie star."
"The guy is a movie star. Movie stars expect to get their own way," he tells us. "They are surrounded by sycophants, many of them on the payroll. Should a discouraging word somehow prick the bubble of fabulousness in which they travel, even big-screen he-men can turn into crybabies."
Translation: Mel Gibson is a crybaby for reacting angrily to utterly unfounded criticism, largely from people like Rich who haven't seen the film.
And Rich all but sobs himself because Gibson won't let him see "The Passion."
He doesn't explain why Gibson should be so gracious to a columnist and other critics who have shown themselves to be utterly biased against the film before even seeing it.
Let’s take a moment and review what Rich is so upset about.
Rich says that Gibson claims "... he has based his movie on at least one revisionist source, a 19th-century stigmatic nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, notable for her grotesque caricatures of Jews. To the extent that there can be any agreement about the facts of a story on which even the four Gospels don’t agree, his movie is destined to be inaccurate."
Some of the nation's leading biblical experts have stated unequivocally that the film is totally faithful to the four Gospels. And, as NewsMax.com has pointed out, Gibson says that part of his inspiration for the film were the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich as she reported them in "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich" in which she recounted Christ's suffering in great and shocking detail.
The film itself, however, is based solidly on the four Gospels, as those evangelical Christian religious figures, all deeply rooted in the New Testament, who saw the film have said.
Rich reports, "In the New Yorker profile, Gibson says that 'modern secular Judaism wants to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church,’ a charge that Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, labels 'classic anti-Semitism. ' "
Has Foxman failed to notice the unrelenting and maliciously false attacks on Pope Pius XII?
Clearly, the Times is unabashedly anti-Catholic.
Gibson's motives are political. "Intentionally or not, the contentious rollout of 'The Passion' has resembled a political campaign, from its start on 'The O'Reilly Factor.' "
Rich then goes after Gibson's adherence to what he calls "a fringe church that disowns Vatican II and is not recognized by the Los Angeles Roman Catholic archdiocese."
Gibson's roads, he writes "do not lead to Rome so much as Washington.
"It was there that he screened a rough cut of the movie to conservative columnists likely to give it raves – as they did."
Obviously, Gibson is on the outs with Rome, Rich suggests, ignoring the fact that senior Vatican cardinals have enthusiastically endorsed the film, urging that everybody see it.
In the classic New York Times ploy of using anonymous sources to buttress its liberal prejudices, Rich claims he has "sought out some of those who have seen the movie itself, in the same cut praised by Gibson's clique this summer. They are united in believing, as one of them puts it, that "it's not a close call —the film clearly presents the Jews as the primary instigators of the crucifixion."
He won't tell you who told him that. You'll have to take Rich's word for it … for what it's worth.
Rich continues to perpetuate the falsehood that Gibson and the film are somehow anti-Semitic, although the overwhelming majority of those many people, including prominent Jews who have seen the film, vehemently deny the charge. Even Abraham Foxman once admitted as much.
And Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association and certainly no conservative, praised the film after seeing it this summer.
"I don't see what the controversy is all about," Valenti was quoted as saying. "This is a compelling piece of art. I just called Kirk Douglas and told him that this is the movie to beat."
Apparently, Rich does know what the controversy is about, though he hasn’t seen the film.
Monday, Sept. 22, 2003
Times' Noxon Responds to Article About Gibson
Christopher Noxon, a free-lance writer for the New York Times who wrote a controversial critique of Mel Gibson and his father’s religious views, responded to NewsMax’s article "New Yorker Exposes Dishonesty of Mel Gibson's Critics."
In his article detailing criticism of Gibson and his new movie about the death of Jesus, "The Passion," Phil Brennan wrote:
"As it turns out, Noxon's family owns property near Gibson's Malibu church ... and opposed its construction."
Noxon responds: "This is simply not true. I repeat – the church's neighbors APPROVED the plans."
"Mr. Gibson's attorneys and publicists would like you very much to believe that my father opposed construction of the church and that I was somehow attempting to 'get back' at Mr. Gibson by writing the NY Times story," Noxon says.
"This is plainly untrue and easily confirmed as such (and also pretty ridiculous – as if a freelance journalist would require any other motivation to pursue a story like this one). If the New Yorker's Mr. Boyer (or for that matter, Phil Brennan) had bothered to ask me or check the ample public documents relating to Mr. Gibson's church, he would have discovered that my father is a member of a local homeowner association that reviewed plans for the church. As such, he attended meetings where the zoning permit was discussed – covering such matters as parking, signage and hours of operation – as part of what was by all accounts a routine and amicable process which ended when the neighbors (including my father) approved the plans."
Noxon also questioned Brennan's claim that "Noxon implied that Gibson's film, then being filmed in Italy, might 'serve as a propaganda vehicle.'"
Noxon tells us that the quoted phrase "serve as a propaganda vehicle" never appeared in his story.
Brennan responds that the "progaganda vehicle" was quoted from Peter Boyer's New Yorker article, and clearly refers to Noxon's statement in the Times that some believe the movie "will serve as a big-budget dramatization of key points of traditionalist theology."
Brennan argues that "Noxon's story was a classic hatchet job – an attack on Mel Gibson's father as a way of getting at Mel."
Frank Rich Squeaks; Russell Crowe Squawks
THE LEFT COAST REPORT
A Political Look at Hollywood
Poor Franky Rich. He’s supposed to be the expert columnist for the arts section of a major newspaper.
Instead the artsy guy has his undies in a twist about Hollywood megastar Mel Gibson. And he’s carrying on his conniption fit for all the world to see on the smudgy pages of the New York Times.
But first, a word from another guy who knows what stinky foot tastes like – Russell Crowe. A radio station asked the actor for his opinion on fellow Aussie Gibson’s unreleased film, "The Passion."
The fact that Crowe hadn’t yet viewed the film didn’t stop him from flapping his gums. Crowe relied on some hefty speculation as he let loose with, "Well if what I’ve heard about it is fair dinkum …" [Translation for "fair dinkum" – true].
Crowe says he heard that Gibson "spent $25 million making a movie that’s shot in Aramaic and Latin, and he’s intending to release it without subtitles. I think he’s got to get off the glue."
Gibson’s production folks tell me that they’re leaning toward using subtitles. But continuing on his uninformed jaunt, Crowe said: "What’s the point of making a movie where people can’t understand what’s going on? I don’t understand that. If you want it for reality or whatever, I think, ‘Wow, what an amazing idea,’ but also what a waste of time if nobody can get what the point is."
Back to Rich. After a Vatican official (who’s on the short list to becoming a future pope) raved about Gibson's movie and dismissed the so-called concerns of bigotry about the film, Mel’s chief mindless critic tried to change the focus of the attack.
Although in the past the Jayson Blair understudy wrote that "it's hard to imagine the movie being anything other than a flop," Rich continues to devote his arts column to Gibson.
In the name of tolerance, diversity and understanding, Rich has written that Gibson and his organization have been "baiting Jews," Matt Drudge is a "token Jew," traditionalist Catholics are a "fringe church," Rupert Murdoch is a "conservative non-Jew," Peter J. Boyer’s article "sanitizes" Mel’s father, Gibson spokesman Alan Nierob "plays bizarre games with the Holocaust," and Bill O'Reilly is "being paid" to defend Gibson.
Rich even hit a section of my book, "Tales from the Left Coast," claiming to "decode" a "strange passage," where I supposedly have "a fetish of repeating Bob Dylan's original name."
The Left Coast Report suggests that maybe Franky can get some guidance counseling from a person with greater artistic sensibilities – such as E.T.’s Mary Hart.
A Letter to Mel Gibson
It’s now been a month since I viewed "The Passion," and I write this letter hoping enough time has passed so that I can speak with some semblance of objectivity.
Quite simply, I believe you have made one of the most breathtaking, poignant movies of our time. I cannot recall a film that has had such a profound effect on my understanding of history, religion and, perhaps most importantly, what we as human beings are capable of in relation to our treatment of one another.
The film’s theme and central lesson is clear and timeless: In the depths of our humanity lies the capacity for great evil and utter ignorance, as well as an equal capacity for love, forgiveness and compassion. It is in this furnace of duality that the arrows of love and compassion are cast alongside the swords of war and hatred. Therein rages the battle that will seethe as long as human beings walk the earth.
Your position as a filmmaker and as a Catholic is obvious from the beginning of the first act. Jesus died for the sins of all humanity. This simple yet powerful idea runs in direct conflict to the notion that Jesus died simply at the behest of the Jews, or for that matter, the Romans. Further, Mary, Jesus, and all of the Apostles are clearly depicted as Jews. Clearly Jewish is the angry throng protesting the crucifixion. Simon, who helps Jesus carry the cross to the final station, is clearly a compassionate Jew.
The film simply depicts the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life and the ordeal he endured as the sufferer of mankind’s sins for all eternity. To say this film is in any way about "finger pointing" or "assigning blame" is akin to saying that "Gladiator" is a film about lion fighting and the Romans’ and Gladiators’ penchant for animal cruelty. It would take an animal rights activist yelling from the world’s highest soapbox to simplify "Gladiator" that way.
That being said, I am deeply saddened and pained by the assault on the film and your character being perpetrated by those whose ignorance is, I’m afraid, helping to fulfill the very prophecy they so deeply fear. The irony here, relative to the movie’s story, is too great to go unmentioned.
My feelings on the film, as a filmmaker, are clear. As a Jew, I left the movie feeling a greater sense of kinship and closeness to my Christian brothers and sisters than I ever thought imaginable. I see "The Passion" as one of the most powerful uniting tools to ever take advantage of the single medium capable of such a task, namely, film.
Whether one believes that Jesus was in fact the Son of God is essentially unimportant in appreciating the beauty and message of the film. The story of the simple relationship between a mother and her son alone is enough to soften even the most hardened of souls.
There are a myriad ways to view the film based on the beliefs the viewer brings with him; if you do believe Jesus was the savior, then this film may be about his having to die for our transgressions. If you do not believe Jesus was the Son of God, then maybe at the least, you leave the film with a great disdain of the laws of the time. Crucifixion was a barbaric and cruel act; it is possible that in a thousand years civilization will look back on our current death penalty in the same way.
I wonder how they will choose to characterize our society. Will it be as murderous Christians or Jews? Murderous Republicans or Democrats? Murderous people who wore blue uniforms, versus those who did not? Alternatively, perhaps they will look back at our society as one whose laws were simply … barbaric.
In the past, my father has related to me stories of his youth as a Jew growing up in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood. Hardly a day went by when he did not have to defend himself as a "Christ killer." Based on your and my discussions, I know how sensitive you are to this reality, as well as the reality that for centuries Jews were persecuted in this very ignorant manner, unfortunately thereby detracting from the Testaments’ actual meaning.
I suppose it is for this reason that the ADL and others believe they are doing the right thing by attacking the film and your character, led by the vicious surgical strike leveled at you in the New York Times. In my opinion, they are guided by a misguided fear that unfortunately belies their very concerns. That is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that the mudslingers in this case may be creating controversy in an attempt to justify their jobs. I find this "Wag the Dog" scenario disturbing and dangerous.
Simply put, at the end of the day it is only their message that asks the potential viewer to see the film as anti-Semitic.
Bottom line: "The Passion" will not create a single bigot or anti-Semite. It may, however, reveal them. So much the better.
Finally, as we’ve discussed, the centuries of persecution that I spoke of earlier went beyond racial slurs and corporal punishment. Jews were told what they could and could not think, what they could and could not believe, and what they could and could not say.
If for no other reason, I would hope that fellow Jews and Christians alike would see the importance in respecting your rights to create and share whatever vision you choose, and the hypocrisy in the attempts to censure of said rights. I would hope we have moved past the age of ignorance that saw the near genocide of a people, book burnings, men like McCarthy and Stalin flourish, and the raising of a wall in Germany. I would hope that we would not let ignorance guide us back to what we fear so deeply.
Now, this goes without saying, but based on our relationship alone, I know you’re in no way, shape, or form anti-Semitic. I wish with a passion that everyone could know as I do the innate kindness and goodness in your heart. I believe that when they view this movie unencumbered, they will. The film, like any other, deserves that chance.
Thank you for allowing me to view a film that has restored my faith in the power of our medium to move, educate, and uplift the spirit.
Alan Sereboff is a screenwriter who has viewed Mel Gibson's film "The Passion." Sereboff is Jewish and has worked for Mel's company, Icon Productions, and says, "I will continue to work for him proudly."
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2003
Gibson Rescued Robert Downey Jr.
Mel Gibson is not only courageous, as he is proving with his film "The Passion," now under vicious attack - he's also a stand-up guy for others who have been a target of attacks.
That's what Robert Downey Jr. says, and he should know - Mel Gibson reached out to him when he most needed help and gave him a giant helping hand, the actor told Fox News Roger Friedman at the premiere of his new movie, "The Singing Detective."
Gibson, he said, made it possible for him to win the star role in the movie - a role that has given his career a huge boost and could win him an Academy award.
According to Downey, he wouldn't have had what Friedman described as "the multi-layered role of the singing detective" if not for Gibson.
"Mel put up the money for my insurance bond," Downey told Friedman.
And that was no small thing - without the bond he couldn't have won the role. He said he'd previously lost a role in another film because he couldn't get insurance.
Gibson and Downey have been close pals since they made "Air America" together back in 1990.
"At the time, I was straight, a teetotaler, and I told Mel, 'I'm even straighter than you,'" Downey laughed, recalling the conversation. "But after everything that happened to me, Mel said, 'Now I'm straighter than you, and it only took 10 years.'"
So, what about Mel Gibson and his controversial movie about Jesus, 'The Passion?' Has Downey seen it?" Friedman asked him
"I have," he replied. "And you know my father is Jewish. His name was Elias and he changed it to Downey. I have it tattooed on my ankle." The Fox reporter said that Downey rolled up his trouser cuff and revealed the name "Elias."
"'The Passion' is not anti-Semitic," Downey said.
Friedman reported that Gibson "has a strong supporting role in 'The Singing Detective.' He plays the main character's shrink and is virtually unrecognizable. He wears a fake baldpate and glasses, dresses in a doctor's white lab coat, black pants and shoes with white athletic socks. Don't be surprised if Gibson gets Oscar buzz in the Best Supporting Actor category."
James Hirsen, NewsMax.com
Word has it that, when it comes to distribution, Mel Gibson’s film about the final hours in the life of Jesus Christ didn’t particularly spark Disney’s interest. On the other hand, "Kill Bill" is a flick that evidently did float the Mouse’s Miramax boat.
Although the title of the movie conjures up images of the former first lady’s rough draft of "Living History," that’s not what the celluloid creation is all about.
It’s been six years since the writer-director of "Kill Bill," Quentin Tarantino, made a movie, and it’s anybody’s guess what the guy’s been up to. But from the looks of his latest work, it’s likely he’s been OD’ing on martial-arts movies, gaping at Japanese cartoons and chowing down cartons of clichés.
Many of Hollywood’s elites will no doubt hail the bloody spoof as "edgy" and "ground-breaking." But regular Joes and Janes may gain more entertainment and aesthetic satisfaction from watching a Freddy Krueger sequel.
Violence often plays a pivotal role in film. But in this case, psychotic retribution is celebrated with a special delivery of decapitated heads, a balloon bouquet of severed limbs and a mega-keg of blood. It’s enough to make Hannibal Lechter reach for the Pepto.
The film features "Pulp Fiction"’s Uma Thurman as a revenge seeking martial arts hit-gal. In the movie, Thurman’s character goes after former colleagues that she had worked with when she was part of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS) because they tried to kill her on her wedding day.
In order to get patrons to part with double their money, the original three-hour film is being released in two parts. This means that viewers will have to endure scenes that seem to go on forever because they’ve been stretched to fit a chubbier time slot.
Ironically, this film comes to us courtesy of the same town that can’t seem to deliver a movie that deals with the most significant event of our times – September 11. The closest Tinseltown has come to bringing the story of the attack to the screen was the made for cable Showtime original "DC 9/11." It was written by longtime Hollywood insurgent Lionel Chetwynd.
While cinematic excursions that border on snuff flicks are often showered with awards in Hollywood, making a flick that deals with the war on terror is apparently comparable to trying to stuff a truthful peg into a politically correct hole.
"The only unorganized groups you can make as the enemy would be the U.S. government, the police, the FBI and corporate America," says Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Chetwynd sees a problem in finding a P.C.-approved hero as well. "Who's going to be the hero?" Chetwynd asks. "The CIA? The government? Our government?"
Guess Tinseltown’s message to young filmmakers is if you lack creativity, just use the mayhem modality along with profanity and you, too, will be called avant-garde.
Monday, Oct. 13, 2003
Gibson's 'Passion' Already a Hit on the Internet
Moviegoers are so eager to see Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus that they've been crashing Web sites in their search for bootleg trailers.
Hollywood Reporter says "The Passion of Christ," the new title for what has long been called simply "The Passion," won't have an official trailer out until the Christmas season. In the meantime, fans will take what they can get.
Harry Knowles of AintItCoolNews says that in July his site was the first to post the trailer, but he soon had to remove it because of high demand.
"In one day I got 350,000 downloads of that sucker. I had to take it down because it slowed down server traffic. My site ground to a halt," Knowles said.
"It's a great trailer. The best I've seen this year. Probably too graphic for audiences."
Other movie sites, along with religious sites, took up the slack by featuring the sneak preview.
"The demand for the trailer shows an incredible groundswell of interest in the 'Passion,"' said Bruce Davey, president of Gibson's Icon Productions.
Greg Dean Schmitz, who does Greg's Previews of Upcoming Movies for Yahoo! Movies, said that of the 100 or so movies scheduled for release early next year, "The Passion of Christ" was the most-visited page in August and No. 2 in September.
According to Schmitz, Gibson hopes to find a distribution deal in time for a wide release right before Easter.
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003 10:56 p.m. EDT
Mel Gibson's Film Renamed 'Passion of Christ'
LOS ANGELES - Mel Gibson has retitled his epic about the last hours of Jesus to "The Passion of Christ" because the original name - "The Passion" - was claimed by another movie in the works.
Gibson had to pick a new name because Miramax owns the rights to the title for "The Passion," a historical romantic fantasy adapted from Jeanette Winterson's novel.
A Gibson spokesman said Wednesday that at least in the United States, the film would be released as "The Passion of Christ." Gibson was still researching whether he could use the title "The Passion" overseas.
Gibson's film has drawn complaints from Jewish leaders, who say it suggests Jews were responsible for Christ's death. Conservative Catholics who have seen the film have called it a powerful rendering of the hours leading up to Christ's Crucifixion.
The film stars Jim Caviezel as Christ and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene, and the dialogue is in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic. Gibson considered releasing the film without captions but has decided to include English subtitles.
Negotiations continue with potential distributors, with Gibson hoping to have the film in theaters just before next Easter. Gibson has indicated he might release the film himself if he does not strike a deal with a distributor.
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2003
Robert Downey Jr. Praises Helpful Mel Gibson
As James Hirsen's Left Coast Report has noted, Hollywood leftists such as Woody Allen have abandoned recovering druggie Robert Downey Jr., but Mel Gibson has remained a friend indeed. Now Downey is paying tribute to his true-blue pal.
"Gibson was always like, 'I believe in you, man, you're gonna get through this,'" Downey told USA Today. "And I was like, 'Yeah!'"
The two actors, who co-starred more than a decade ago in "Air America," share the silver screen again this fall in "The Singing Detective," a project Gibson brought to Downey.
Downey swears this time he has finally cleaned up his act.
"All that stuff before, where part of the game was the 'I promise,' it was all kids' stuff," he said. "All 'cry wolf' stuff. It wasn't important to me to change. But I'm into this."
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003
Gibson's 'Passion of Christ' Has Distributor, Debuts Ash Wednesday
The left-wing thought police fought him every step of the way. The major studios refused to touch his new project even though he has made Tinseltown hundreds of millions of dollars. But Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" will open in America on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.
The Oscar-winning director and Newmarket Films announced a deal today to distribute the movie, about the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ.
"The Passion of Christ" stars James Caviezel as Jesus and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene. The dialogue is in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic with English subtitles.
Newmarket, an independent distribution company, specializes in publicizing and securing theaters for such excellent movies as "Memento," "Real Women Have Curves" and "Whale Rider."
Gibson will distribute the film himself through his Icon Productions in the United Kingdom and Australia, the Associated Press reported.
And that high-pitched shriek you hear is the New York Times' Frank Rich tossing his latest temper tantrum.
Learn all about Mel Gibson's fight to make "The Passion of Christ": NewsMax's James Hirsen talks to Gibson, watches the landmark movie being made and tells the inside story - exclusively in the November issue of NewsMax Magazine.Click here to subscribe now.
Sunday, Nov. 2, 2993
Jewish Actress Proud to Be Mel Gibson’s Virgin Mary
She's Jewish, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and she says she's proud to be playing the Virgin Mary in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ."
Though some critics charge that the film is anti-Semitic, Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern insists it is anything but.
And even though one of the villains is the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, she told the Jewish Journal, in the film he clearly represents the regime and not the Jewish people. "Authorities throughout history have persecuted individuals with revolutionary ideas," she said.
"The Passion," she said, opposes such oppression. "It is about letting people speak openly about what they think and believe," she said. "It denounces the madness of violence and cruelty, which if unchecked can spread like a disease."
And she knows about anti-Semitism first-hand. Her family were victims of violence during World War II, she explained, recalling that her grandfather disappeared after being arrested and her father survived Nazi and Stalinist labor camps.
She herself experienced her own share of anti-Semitism while growing up in Bucharest, Romania. But today she is a devout Jew who started frequenting the Bucharest synagogue when she was 15. "I fell in love with the sound of the Hebrew language," she said.
Her role as the Virgin Mary is not her first playing a Jew who is now a Catholic saint. In Maria Meszaros’ "The Seventh Room," she played St. Edith Stein, the Jew who died as a Catholic nun in Auschwitz and was canonized in 1998.
According to the Jewish Journal it was Morgenstern’s performance as Stein that drew Mel Gibson’s attention.
Called to Rome by Gibson, her first impression of him, she said, was "of a man who was utterly enthusiastic and confident of his artistic vision." He didn’t ask Morgenstern to read from the script, which was written in Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew, but rather chatted with her about another of her roles.
"We started a conversation like two actors, and we were talking and talking until the casting director interrupted and said, ‘I have to know, what is your decision about Ms. Morgenstern?’" she said. "And Mel Gibson replied, ‘Of course I’ll take her – now please keep telling me, Maia, how was your opening?’"
She said that Gibson agreed with her interpretation of her role as "essentially the question of a mother losing a child."
Morgenstern stressed that not a single scene in "The Passion of Christ" struck her as anti-Semitic. Instead, she said, characters such as Mary and St. John are sympathetic Jews, and Gibson "allowed me to make suggestions based on my Jewish culture." In the scene in which Mary learns Jesus has been arrested, for instance, it was Morgenstern’s idea to whisper "Why is this night different from all other nights?" – the question asked during Passover suppers.
When reporters asked her why a Jewish actress was portraying Jesus’ mother, she replied, "I played Clytemnestra in ‘Oresteia,’ and it didn’t mean I killed my husband. And as far as I know, Mary was a Jewish lady, so I think it is very normal."
After finishing her role, she read a New York Times article about the "Passion" controversy but remained relatively isolated from the conflict. She was unaware of charges that Gibson’s father was a Holocaust denier, for example, or that Gibson told the New Yorker that "modern secular Judaism wants to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church."
She said she never heard Gibson make such remarks and she is worried that the media scourging of Gibson and the film amounts to a kind of "censorship" that will prevent the movie from finding a distributor. "I’m very worried about that, because I want this film to be seen by many, many people," she said. "Despite the blood and the violence, it’s a beautiful film. I believe it brings an important message, a peace message."
As NewsMax.com has reported, however, Gibson will handle distribution himself.
Private Viewing of 'The Passion of Christ'
Joel C. Rosenberg
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Oct. 23, as my book tour for "The Last Days" was just getting under way, I got a call inviting me to attend a private viewing of Mel Gibson's forthcoming film, "The Passion of Christ."
An intimate group of about 35 or 40 prominent Washingtonians would gather at a hotel in downtown D.C. We'd have the opportunity to meet with members of Gibson's team, view an unfinished rough cut of the film, and discuss it amongst ourselves.
The viewing would be off the record. We would need to sign a non-disclosure form. But given that I was now a best-selling author and an evangelical Christian from an Orthodox Jewish background, they were interested in my take.
It was an unexpected honor, and I gratefully accepted. We all met Friday night at 8 p.m., and I didn't get home until two o'clock in the morning. The film wasn't six hours, but our discussions lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. There is much that I cannot say about the film – yet. Not until closer to the Feb. 25, 2004, release. But I have been given permission by a top aide to Gibson to write this and talk about the film in various interviews and speeches I have over the next few months.
The film – and Gibson personally – have been viciously attacked as anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth. "The Passion of Christ" is one of the most powerful and spell-binding films ever made, and sure to spark the most important debate of all time: Who is Jesus?
I am not typically someone who cries during films (that's my wife's department). But I have to admit I wept repeatedly during the horrific scenes of Jesus' torture and execution. The images are brutal and realistic. I was watching an innocent man beaten, flogged, bloodied and crucified for nearly 90 minutes of the two-hour-plus film.
It was hard to process. Why would Jesus suffer all that for my sins? How could Jesus have endured so much, and stayed so silent, taking my punishment upon Himself? I know the answers in my heart and in my head. But this was different. Sitting in the dark. Transfixed by graphic, disturbing images. Gripped by haunting, excruciating questions, never so emotionally asked.
Christians are going to embrace this film. Hard-core atheists and those who passionately despise Christianity are going to attack this film without mercy. Never has the essence of the Christian gospel – "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" – been so powerfully illustrated by Hollywood.
The real question: How will those in the middle will react? How will nominal Christians, unchurched Baby Boomers and rebellious Gen-Xers see the "Passion"? I suspect they will be drawn to it. I suspect they will find themselves wrestling – perhaps unexpectedly – with the divinity and the humanity of Jesus in a way they've never done before.
Gibson's desire to show the world what really happened on that "Good Friday" nearly 2,000 years ago should be applauded, not vilified. And Gibson, to his credit, got it right by carefully following the Gospel accounts in the New Testament: the Jewish people are not to blame for the murder of Jesus. Nor are the Romans.
We are all to blame. As the Apostle Paul – also a Christian from an Orthodox Jewish background – tells us in Romans: "We all have sinned and fallen short of of the glory of God." We all need the message of the cross.
That said, the more I mull over the film I saw, the more it strikes me that an intense new cultural battle is brewing over this fundamental question: "Who is Jesus?"
Jesus Himself said He was the Messiah. He said He was God. Is He, or isn't He? If He isn't, what do we have to fear from His story being told? But if Jesus is the personification of the living God, will we follow or reject Him? Mel Gibson is about to use his Hollywood star power to raise those profound and eternal issues. But he's not the only one.
The No. 1 New York Times best seller for most of the year has been "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, a writer who's never been a big best-seller before. What's troubling about "The Code" is that it draws you unsuspectingly into the murder of a man who's protecting a 2,000-year-old conspiracy: secret documents that "prove" that Jesus had an adulterous relationship with Mary Magdelene, had a child with her, never believed he was the Messiah, and actually believed in goddess worship.
It's fiction, but a full-bore attack on the person and message of Jesus Christ, and it's finding a huge audience. Over 3 million copies of "The Da Vinci Code" are in print. The "Today" show featured it last week. Other network shows will feature it over the course of the next month.
So, it took me by surprise at my book launch party in New York when a Christianity Today reporter interviewed me about "The Last Days." Yes, he understood it begins with the assassination of Yasser Arafat, triggers a new war in the Holy Land and a wave of Palestinian suicide bombers heading to the United States.
That's all well and good, he said. But he was far more interested in the fact that the characters in "The Last Days" are on a spiritual journey, not just a political journey. He was intrigued with their pursuit of questions like "Is this new war on terror and the battle over control of Israel and Jerusalem evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls 'the last days' before the return of Jesus Christ?"
He wanted to know more about my background, how someone from an Orthodox Jewish background could come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah ... and what I thought about Dan Brown's book.
It appears he's writing a story for Christianity Today pitting "The Last Days" against "The Da Vinci Code." We'll see what happens. Until then, I just finding it interesting that a big cultural battle is brewing over the person and message of Jesus. It's a battle that's been raging for two millenia, and yet it's also somehow a battle that's long overdue.
To read full World feature on "The Last Days," please go to: http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/10-25-03/cultural_2.asp
To read the first chapter of "The Last Days," please go to: http://www.worldmag.com/world/home.asp
To go to the official Web site for "The Passion of Christ," please go to:
Monday, Nov. 3, 2003 11:45 a.m. EST
Novak: Gibson's Film Not Anti-Semitic
There is no anti-Semitism in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ," writes columnist Robert Novak, a Jewish convert to Catholicism who has seen a private filming of the movie.
"As a journalist who has actually seen what the producers call 'a rough cut' of the movie and not just read about it, I can report it is free of the anti-Semitism that its detractors claim."
Noting the attacks on the film by Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and others, Novak writes that they "began attacking the movie on the basis of reading a shooting script without having actually seen the film."
As a result, he warns, the ADL "carries a heavy burden in stirring religious strife about a piece of entertainment that, apart from its artistic value, is of deep religious significance for believing Christians."
Foxman and other critics, Novak writes, base their complaints on the film's depiction of the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and a Jewish mob demanding that Christ be executed. He explains that this is "straight from the Gospels.
"Father C. John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, told me: 'If you find the Scriptures anti-Semitic, you'll find this film anti-Semitic.'"
Noting that "As a Catholic convert, I was taught we are all sinners who share in guilt for the crucifixion," Novak concludes: "At the heart of the dispute over 'The Passion' is freedom of expression.
"Liberals who defended the right to exhibit Martin Scorsese's 'The Last Temptation of Christ,' which deeply offended orthodox Christians, now demand censorship of 'The Passion of Christ.' As a result, Abe Foxman and his allies have risked stirring religious tensions over a work of art."
The Inside Scoop on Mel Gibson's 'Passion of Christ'
But only the November issue of NewsMax Magazine has the inside scoop on this controversial movie.
In NewsMax's cover story, "Mel's Passion," James Hirsen, unlike the Times’ Frank Rich, actually knows what he’s talking about – Hirsen has seen the film and even witnessed its creation. Scroll down below for our FREE offer for this Mel Gibson edition
Now he shares this behind-the-scenes look at "The Passion" just for NewsMax readers. In fact, Mel Gibson has personally thanked NewsMax for our coverage of his movie and gave Hirsen a look behind the screen – one he now shares in this exclusive report in NewsMax Magazine.
In Hirsen's special report for NewsMax Magazine, find out:
This special Mel Gibson edition of NewsMax Magazine is available online – and even check out our FREE offer: Click here.
NewsMax’s November edition is also just hitting newsstands, including many Barnes & Noble bookstores and Wal-Marts.
There's much more in the November edition:
Most of these articles are exclusive to the magazine and not available on NewsMax.com. Click here to subscribe to NewsMax Magazine and learn what the media establishment refuses to tell you.
Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003 11:03 p.m. EST
Anti-Defamation League to Protest Gibson's 'Passion'
The Anti-Defamation League will zero in on Mel Gibson's upcoming film "The Passion of Christ" at its 90th annual luncheon in Manhattan on Thursday - and Catholic League President William Donohue says he knows what's coming.
"The ADL session on Mel Gibson will reveal no surprises," said Donohue on Tuesday. "All three of the participants have already demonized the man and none has seen the movie."
The CL chief complains that event speakers, Boston University theology professor Paula Fredriksen, Sister Mary C. Boys, professor of Judeo-Christian Studies, Union Theological Seminary; and Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director, have long been hostile towards Gibson's movie about Christ's crucifixion.
"When violence breaks out, Mel Gibson will have a much higher authority than professors and bishops to answer to," Professor Fredriksen has already warned.
Sister Boys has predicted that Gibson's flick "could be one of the great crises in Christian-Jewish relations."
And Mr. Foxman has accused Gibson of being anti-Semitic, only to have to withdraw the charge after reporters challenged him to produce evidence.
Donohue cites instead Rabbi Daniel Lapin, whose organization Toward Tradition has as its primary goal generating good relations between Christians and Jews.
Lapin has described protests against 'Passion" sight unseen as "morally indefensible."
Says Donohue: "There is not one scene in the movie that blames all Jews for the death of Christ—either then or now. And if it did, the Catholic League would condemn it."
Adds the CL chief, "Notwithstanding our sharp disagreement with the organization on this issue, we commend the ADL for its brilliant track record in combating anti-Semitism and other expressions of bigotry."
ADL's Foxman: Mel Gibson 'Infected' With Anti-Semitism
Marc Morano, CNSNews.com
NEW YORK – A prominent Jewish leader declared that movie actor and director Mel Gibson was "seriously infected" with anti-Semitic views, based on recent comments the Hollywood star has made regarding his movie "The Passion of Christ."
Abraham Foxman, the national director of Anti-Defamation League, said, "I think he's infected, seriously infected, with some very, very serious anti-Semitic views."
Foxman made the remarks at a panel discussion titled "Mel Gibson's The Passion: A Conversation on Its Implications for Jews and Christians." The discussion took place during the 90th annual national meeting of ADL Thursday.
In an interview with CNSNews.com after the discussion, Foxman reiterated his comments about Gibson.
"[Gibson's] got classical anti-Semitic views. If he can say that there is a cabal out there of secular liberal Jews who are trying to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church, that's a classic anti-Semitic canard, that Jews operate in cabals to get their way.
"If he can say that somebody will not permit him to make another move - who? Jewish Hollywood? The ADL? When he can say that he now understands how Jesus felt now - not before he made the film, not because the gospel inspired him, but now - because he has been criticized and attacked. That's anti-Semitism," Foxman told CNSNews.com.
'People in an Asylum'
But William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, repudiated Foxman's comments about Gibson being "infected" with anti-Semitic views.
"I would regard this as the most singular irresponsible statement we have heard yet from any one of Mel Gibson's critics," Donohue told CNSNews.com.
Donohue said the comments about Gibson and his movie at ADL's panel discussion are what you would "expect from people in an asylum." Donohue, who has seen the movie, noted that none of the three panelists featured at the ADL meeting on Thursday had yet to see the film.
Conservative media critic Michael Medved also lambasted Foxman for his comments about Gibson.
"I respect the ADL, but what [Foxman] is doing is marginalizing himself," Medved told CNSNews.com. Medved, the author of the book "Hollywood vs. America" and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, said it was "ridiculous" to say that Gibson holds anti-Semitic views.
"I think it's very sad, I really do. Sad and unnecessary," said Medved, an orthodox Jew.
Foxman did attempt to qualify his assertion regarding Gibson's views toward Jews. "I don't think [Gibson is] the type of person who gets up in the morning and says 'I want to get the Jews.' But does he have attitudes that are anti-Semitic? Yes," Foxman said.
"The Passion of Christ," set to open on Feb. 25, 2004, depicts the final 12 hours of Christ's life in bloody detail. The $25 million movie, produced by Gibson's Icon Productions and distributed by Newmarket Films, strives to achieve authenticity by featuring only Latin and Aramaic dialogue with English subtitles. "The Passion of Christ" stars actor James Caviezel as Christ and actress Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene.
Hitler and Easter
During the panel discussion, Foxman warned of the danger that Passion plays about the crucifixion of Christ have historically posed to Jews, because they frequently reinforce the notion of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus. Foxman cited Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's praise of a Passion play from the 1930s to illustrate his point.
"When Hitler walked out [of a Passion play] in 1934, he declared that 'the whole world over should see ... this Passion play, then they will understand why I despise the Jews and why they deserve to die,'" Foxman told the crowd of about 400 attendees.
Even discussing the crucifixion of Christ in church services has had a deleterious effect on Jews worldwide, according to Foxman. Foxman claimed that "hate crimes [against Jews] go up Easter week worldwide" because in many Christian churches, "the sermon is given about the passion," the suffering of Christ.
Foxman noted that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which Gibson reportedly opposes, responded to centuries of anti-Semitic interpretations of Christ's crucifixion by issuing a document in 1965 called Nostra Aetate. That document officially repudiated anti-Semitism and the charge of deicide. The church also issued guidelines in the 1980s for performing Passion plays designed to avoid anti-Semitic caricatures and overtones, according to Foxman.
Hollywood 'Is a Club'
Foxman vowed that he would not give up his public criticism of Gibson's film.
"After [the] Holocaust, I don't have the luxury to keep quiet about concerns about" anti-Semitism, Foxman told reporters following the panel discussion.
Asked why many prominent Jews in Hollywood have not joined him in criticizing Gibson, Foxman responded, "It's sad, but that's the way it is."
"It is a club, like any other club of doctors or lawyers. So you have a club of Hollywood people, who are not willing to criticize and stand aside from that club," he told reporters.
'Not Something I Would Say'
Sister Mary C. Boys, a liberal Catholic nun and a professor of Judeo-Christian Studies at New York's Union Theological Seminary, said based on what she has seen and heard, the movie "certainly goes 100 degrees against Catholic principles of interpretation of scripture." Boys was among an ad hoc group of scholars who produced a harsh public critique of an early script version of Gibson's film last spring.
But Boys distanced herself from Foxman's declaration that Gibson was "seriously infected" with anti-Semitic views.
"That's [Foxman's] view, it's not something that I would say," Boys told CNSNews.com.
"I have never called [Gibson] an anti-Semite, nor have I ever demonized him."
Boys mocked Gibson's reported comment that the "Holy Spirit" guided him during the production of the film.
She noted that the movie was already "dividing evangelicals and Catholics, Catholics and Catholics, and Christians and Jews."
"I don't believe that [given the divisive] result that he could claim that the Holy Sprit is behind this," Boys said.
Boys summed up her concerns about the film by stating, "Our concern is, what happens after people see the film? Will anti-Semitic actions happen, or will attitudes against the Jews be exacerbated by this film? That is the question."
Steve Lyons, an ADL member from California who watched the panel discussion, said that Gibson might very well be an anti-Semite.
"From what I have read, it appears that way," Lyons told CNSNews.com .
Another panelist, Paula Fredriksen, a professor of theology at Boston University and one of the ad hoc scholars who harshly criticized the film last spring, believes Gibson's production will prove to be "an inflammatory movie."
Fredriksen said the movie continues the "toxic tradition of blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus."
"A movie like this could very possibly elicit violence against Jews," she said.
'Chainsaw Massacre' OK, 'Passion' Not OK?
But Catholic League's Donohue ridiculed Fredriksen's warning that Gibson's film might incite violence, and he noted that there have been no reported incidences of violence associated with the recent release of the slasher film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
"We are supposed to believe that Mel Gibson's movie will do what the even 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' did not do, which is bring violence into the streets?" Donohue asked.
Hasn't Seen It but Wants It Changed Anyway
Kenneth Jacobson, the associate national director of ADL, said the solution to ending the film controversy was for Gibson to alter the film and present the story "in a way that could be pleasing to Christians and not offend Jews."
Medved, who has seen the film, said, "Mel Gibson is obviously uninterested in Foxman's input on the film, and the movie will come out, win critical praise and become a box-office hit in spite of any ADL fulminations."
Medved said the ADL's criticisms of Gibson's film were not helping Jews.
Medved: ADL Fuels Anti-Semitism
"My concern is that the campaign against 'The Passion' is provoking far more anti-Semitism than the movie itself ever could," Medved said.
"It's a battle, frankly that the Jewish community doesn't need."
Jennifer Giroux, the foundation director of the group Women Influencing the Nation (W.I.N.) and founder of the Web site See the Passion, called the ADL panel's rhetoric "intellectually reckless and irresponsible."
"I think [Foxman] has now defined what a verbal hate crime is, because he just committed it against Mel Gibson," she told CNSNews.com.
Several efforts to contact Gibson's Icon Production seeking reaction to the ADL's panel discussion were not returned, but Gibson has repudiated any suggestion that he or his movie promotes anti-Semitism.
On June 13, Gibson said in a statement published in the entertainment trade paper Variety, "'The Passion' is a movie meant to inspire, not offend."
"My intention in bringing it to the screen is to create a lasting work of art and engender serious thought among audiences of diverse faith backgrounds.
"If the intense scrutiny during my 25 years in public life revealed I had ever persecuted or discriminated against anyone based on race or creed, I would be all too willing to make amends. But there is no such record," Gibson said.
Copyright CNSNews.comExclusive: Learn the Inside Scoop on Mel Gibson's 'Passion of Christ' – Only in NewsMax Magazine
Virtual Hate Crime Against Mel Gibson
James Hirsen, NewsMax.com
National director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Abraham Foxman is apparently so obsessed with stopping Mel Gibson’s upcoming movie, "The Passion of Christ," he’s inadvertently exposed the reason why he’s been so vocal in his opposition.
Recently, the ADL held its annual meeting in New York, and Foxman was in hyper-hit mode. In a panel discussion titled "Mel Gibson's The Passion: A Conversation on Its Implications for Jews and Christians," Foxman warned the world of a dangerous practice that could cause "hate crimes against Jews."
What "dangerous practice" was he speaking of? What was the treacherous practice that was causing trepidation and creating concern that "hate crimes against Jews" might occur?
Well, the threat he was speaking of happens to be the cornerstone doctrine of the Christian faith – the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – best known to believers as Easter.
Foxman declared that "hate crimes [against Jews] go up Easter week worldwide." He then surmised that the reason this occurs is because in Christian churches around the world a "sermon is given about the passion [of Christ]."
So, evidently Foxman’s solution for eliminating anti-Semitism is not just to snuff out Mel Gibson’s film but also to extinguish Easter as Christians know it.
Foxman wasn’t finished with his yak blitz yet. He proceeded to launch his most underhanded attack on Gibson to date, saying, "I think he's [Gibson’s] infected – seriously infected – with some very, very serious anti-Semitic views."
These words puked out of the leader of an organization that purports to stand for tolerance. Like an angry villager in a Boris Karloff movie, Foxman looks as if he has become the kind of monster his organization has been pursuing for 90 years. He’s spewing deceitful accusations and showing everyone exactly what hate speech sounds like.
At the ADL gathering, two other panelists got into the Gibson attack groove. But their angle was that of harassment.
Paula Fredriksen, professor of theology at Boston University (and one of the original so-called scholars who condemned the film based on an out-of-date misappropriated script), claimed that she had received "drive-by e-mail."
And professor of Judeo-Christian Studies at New York's Union Theological Seminary Sister Mary C. Boys said that she had received harassing phone calls, hate mail and e-mails from Gibson supporters.
Guess spam is more than some libs are capable of bearing. Or maybe Foxman, Fredriksen and Boys just have a really, really stubborn case of chronic secularism.
I have a suggestion for Foxman and chums: Accept the inevitable because despite your theatrics, "The Passion of Christ" is set to open at the start of the Easter season. And all signs lead to cinematic triumph and box office glory.
Jewish Leader Denounces ADL's 'Attacks on Christianity' and Gibson
Marc Morano, CNSNews.com
A conservative Jewish leader has blasted Anti-Defamation League for its "hysterical rantings" over Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ."
Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of the Seattle-based Jewish group Toward Tradition, saidADL's panel discussion last week criticizing "The Passion of Christ" could jeopardize relations between Jews and Christians.
ADL's Abraham Foxman had alleged that Gibson was "seriously infected with some very, very serious anti-Semitic views" for directing and producing the movie about Jesus' crucifixion.
'Agenda of Secular Liberalism'
"In a way that has been unprecedented in 2,000 years, there is an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect between Jews and Christians in America, literally of the kind that has not been seen in 2,000 years, and this is being jeopardized - flagrantly jeopardized by Abraham Foxman in a cynical attempt to promote the agenda of secular liberalism," Lapin told CNSNews.com. Lapin's group seeks to promote harmony between Christians and Jews.
ADL, Lapin charged, does not seek to promote or defend the Jewish faith. "They are merely preaching secular fundamentalism," he said.
Christians viewing Gibson's movie also will have trouble understanding the objections voiced by ADL, according to Lapin.
"Millions of Christians are going to be uplifted by the movie, find themselves moved by Gibson's movie, by the obvious fervor and sincerity of the man who made the movie."
He said Christian moviegoers would not forget ADL's attacks on the film.
'Attacks on Christianity'
"I believe that many of them will remember Abraham Foxman's hysterical rantings and think of them as attacks on Christianity," Lapin said. "What [Foxman] is doing is actually attacking core beliefs in Christianity."
Foxman made the controversial remarks about Gibson at a panel discussion titled "Mel Gibson's The Passion: A Conversation on Its Implications for Jews and Christians." The discussion took place during ADL's 90th annual national meeting Thursday in New York City.
In an interview with CNSNews.com after the panel discussion, Foxman further explained his views about Gibson.
"[Gibson's] got classical anti-Semitic views. If he can say that there is a cabal out there of secular liberal Jews who are trying to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church, that's a classic anti-Semitic canard - that Jews operate in cabals to get their way," Foxman said.
"If he can say that somebody will not permit him to make another move - who? Jewish Hollywood? The ADL? When he can say that he now understands how Jesus felt now - not before he made the film, not because the Gospel inspired him, but now - because he has been criticized and attacked. That's anti-Semitism," Foxman told CNSNews.com.
"The Passion of Christ," set to open on Feb. 25, 2004, depicts the final 12 hours of Christ's life in bloody detail. The $25 million movie, produced by Gibson's Icon Productions and distributed by Newmarket Films, strives to achieve authenticity by featuring only Latin and Aramaic dialogue with English subtitles.
Abraham Foxman’s Latest Attack on Mel Gibson
THE LEFT COAST REPORT
A Political Look at Hollywood
The national director of Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, is apparently so obsessed with stopping Mel Gibson’s movie "The Passion of Christ" that he has inadvertently exposed the reason why he has been so vocal in his opposition.
At ADL’s annual meeting in New York, Foxman was in hyper hit mode. In a one-sided panel discussion called "Mel Gibson's The Passion: A Conversation on Its Implications for Jews and Christians," Foxman warned the world of a dangerous practice that could cause "hate crimes against Jews."
What "dangerous practice" was he speaking of? What was the treacherous practice that was causing trepidation and creating concern that "hate crimes against Jews" might occur?
Well, the threat he was speaking of happens to be the cornerstone doctrine of the Christian faith – the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – best known to believers as Easter.
Foxman declared that "hate crimes [against Jews] go up Easter week worldwide." He then surmised that the reason this occurs is because in Christian churches around the world a "sermon is given about the passion [of Christ]."
So evidently Foxman’s solution for eliminating anti-Semitism is not just to snuff out Gibson’s film but also to extinguish Easter as Christians know it.
Foxman wasn’t finished with his yak blitz yet. He proceeded to launch his most underhanded attack on Gibson to date: "I think he's [Gibson’s] infected - seriously infected - with some very, very serious anti-Semitic views."
These words puked out of the leader of an organization that purports to stand for tolerance. Like an angry villager in a Boris Karloff movie, it looks as if Foxman has become the kind of monster his organization has been pursuing for 90 years. He’s spewing deceitful accusations and showing everyone exactly what hate speech sounds like.
At ADL’s gathering, two other panelists got into the Gibson attack groove. But their angle was that of harassment.
Paula Fredriksen, professor of theology at Boston University (and one of the original so-called scholars who condemned the film based on a stolen and out-of-date script), claimed that she had received "drive-by e-mail."
And Sister Mary C. Boys, a professor of Judeo-Christian Studies at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, said that she had received harassing phone calls, hate mail and e-mails from Gibson’s supporters.
Guess spam is more than some libs are capable of bearing. Or maybe Foxman, Fredriksen and Boys just have a really, really stubborn case of chronic secularism.
The Left Coast Report predicts that, despite the theatrics of Foxman and chums, "The Passion of Christ" will open at the start of the Lenten season to cinematic triumph and box-office glory.
Thursday, Nov. 13, 2003
ADL Shake-Up Over Mel Gibson's 'Passion'
Rabbi Eugene Korn, a leading critic of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ," has resigned as Anti-Defamation League's director of interfaith affairs.
The Jewish publication Forward suggests the resignation stems from a major disagreement within the ADL over the organizations aggressive criticism of Mel Gibson's upcoming film "The Passion of Christ."
The paper quotes Korn as saying that his resignation was a "mutual decision" stemming from his need for "a more reflective and contemplative environment."
"Korn's departure has some Jewish communal observers suggesting that a more diplomatic approach is needed in dealing with Gibson's upcoming film," Forward reported.
The Forward also noted that while the ADL's "strong rebuke of Gibson and his film was hailed by officials at several Jewish organizations, it has been criticized as counterproductive by an increasing number of communal experts."
Elan Steinberg, senior adviser to World Jewish Congress, said: "We have to ask questions in the Jewish community about the approach taken to this film. Have we really examined the question of whether bringing greater publicity to the film, broad charges of anti-Semitism and perhaps disenchanting those who are our allies in many struggles should be done in such a cavalier way?"
Korn "was uncomfortable with the aggressive style of the ADL's longtime national director, Abraham Foxman," on Gibson's movie and other interfaith issues, Forward reported.
Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of the organization Toward Tradition, recentlydenounced Foxman for condemning Gibson as an anti-Semite.
And other Jewish leaders are also worried the ADL strategy has backfired.
"I'm not sure if we're not playing into [Gibson's] hands," said Gilbert Rosenthal, director of the National Council of Synagogues. "He said he's got millions of dollars in free publicity. I'd like to see statements from the Christian community on this."
Hebrew Union College professor Rabbi Michael Cook told the Forward that the Jewish community risks "embarrassment" when the film hits theatres and the public recognizes the film is not offensive.
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2003
U.S. News Predicts Bloody Battle Over Mel Gibson's Movie
If you thought the brouhaha over CBS's movie "The Reagans" was big, wait until you see the street fight over Mel Gibson's upcoming movie.
This week, U.S. News & World Report reports that the fight over "The Reagans" will "look like crumbs on the table of the Last Supper when the coming fight over Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of Christ' hits full stride early next year."
Of course, as we've been reporting for months, the attacks on the movie have been nasty for some time, although many who have seen the movie have been vocal in their praise and support for Gibson.
The New York Post had five people review "a copy" of the movie and printed their comments Monday. Four – a priest, a rabbi, a professor and the paper's movie critic (and no, this was not a joke) – called it everything from "appalling" to "unfair" to "deeply troubling."
"He had an opportunity to reflect on the long history of the theology of suffering, and he missed that opportunity by producing just a picture of brutality," complained Elizabeth Castelli, a professor of religion at Barnard College and "senior research scholar" at NYU's Center for Religion and Media.
She called the movie's portrayal of Jews "unfair" and based on "medieval stereotypes ... that have a history of inspiring violence against Jews."
The positive review came, notably, from a civilian. Joan Wilson, one of the Post's readers, said the "must-see movie" was "riveting."
"I always knew his was a painful death, but I didn't understand how human he was or realize he suffered that much," she said.
The depiction of Jews is fair, she said. "The Romans of that era were throwing people to lions."
Perhaps, then, this is a movie for regular people, not the ivory-tower elites.
Friday, Nov. 21, 2003
Feds Probe Bootleg of Mel Gibson's 'Passion'
Federal authorities want to know howthe New York Post got a bootleg copy of Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ," the Los Angeles Times reported today.
Gibson also wants to know how the tabloid got hold of his controversial movie, scheduled for release in February. He's thinking about going to court, his lawyer said.
"Our biggest concern here is that a major media organization would become involved with pirates to concoct a news story to sell newspapers. For someone to feel the license to do this is just outrageous," said Gibson's legal rep George Hedges.
"The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office would not confirm that an investigation has been launched. But the sources, inside and out of law enforcement, said authorities were looking into how the film was acquired without authorization," the Times reported.
"The flap touches on two of Hollywood's hottest issues: escalating fears of movie piracy, and concerns and curiosity about 'The Passion' itself, in which Gibson has invested more than $20 million of his own money."
Daily Variety quoted a spokesman for the Post as saying, "A source provided us with the tape, no copies were made, and we have returned the tape to Mr. Gibson's representatives."
Robert Friedman, chief operating officer of Paramount Pictures, told the Times: "This is vigilante journalism. They are promoting chaos. To get anybody's movies, books or articles in a formative stage and steal it to review it is unconscionable."
Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2003
Billy Graham Praises Mel Gibson's 'Passion of Christ'
America's most influential minister, the Rev. Billy Graham, gives a glowing review of Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ."
"I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus' death," Graham said. "After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there.
"I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection – which Christians believe are the most important events in human history.
"The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned. It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group.
"No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same," Graham said.
Gibson and actor James Caviezel traveled to North Carolina twice to screen the movie and discuss their spiritual journeys.
"In both meetings, the evangelist became convinced of Mr. Gibson's deep sincerity and great desire that this motion picture be used to bring a new emphasis on those events 2,000 years ago, and their relevance to us today," stated Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Friday, Nov. 28, 2003 10:49 a.m. EST
Senior Rabbi: Don't Boycott Mel Gibson Film
A senior American rabbi has broken ranks with fellow Jewish leaders and urged them not to boycott Mel Gibson's controversial upcoming religious treatise, "The Passion of Christ."
Britain's Guardian reports that the film, which is earmarked for U.S. release next year on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 25), centers on the final hours of Christ's life and has upset Jewish leaders, who say the production blames Jews for Christ's death.
However, Rabbi A James Rudin, who is the American Jewish Committee's senior adviser on interreligious affairs, has seen a rough cut of the film and said Jewish leaders should use it as an example of how Christ's death has been used to stoke anti-Semitism.
"Use this movie in what we call a teachable moment to bring together Jews and Christians to look at the whole story of how the Passion has been used and abused," Rudin told an interfaith group in Baltimore.
Jim Caviezel and Monica Bellucci star in the film, which Rudin likened to a medieval passion play in which the Jews have been portrayed as thugs.
"Many Christian leaders taught that Jews and their 'discredited' religion must be treated with anger, contempt and rage, and all of this was played out on passion play stages," Rudin is reported as saying in the Detroit News. "It's a clear case of scapegoating."
Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003 7:23 p.m. EST
Pope to See Mel Gibson's Movie on Christ
Pope John Paul II has asked to see Mel Gibson's upcoming movie on the death of Jesus Christ.
"The Passion of Christ" is set to be released on Ash Wednesday next year, but the pope wants an advance showing.
Gibson was planning to show the film today in Rome, but his production company decided to postpone the Vatican screening.
According to press reports, Gibson's Icon Productions told the Vatican in an e-mail on Monday night that the actor-director was still working on the final version and asked them to wait because "the film is only weeks away from being finished."
The movie, which covers the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ, has come under intense criticism from Jewish groups. They argue the film will foment anti-Semitism because it portrays Jewish authorities as largely responsible for Christ's death.
But Catholic and other Christian groups, as well as biblical scholars, have defended the film, saying it sticks closely to accounts of the Crucifixion as told in the New Testament.
Recently, Billy Graham viewed the film and heartily endorsed it. He denied that it had anti-Semitic overtones.
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003 9:00 p.m. EST
Vatican Views Mel Gibson's 'Passion'
NewsMax's James Hirsen reports that high-ranking officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) gave their unanimous approval and expressed admiration for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in Rome over the weekend at a private screening..
The CDF is the group that oversees Catholic doctrinal questions.
We also note that Zenit, a Vatican online news agency, conducted an interview with Dominican Father Augustine Di Noia, an undersecretary of the doctrinal congregation who works for the head of the CDF, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Father Di Noia called the film "an intensely religious experience." He said that Gibson’s rendering is "a production of exquisite artistic and religious sensitivity."
Father Di Noia also categorically countered criticisms of the film, saying that Gibson's film "incorporates elements from the Passion narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but remains faithful to the fundamental structure common to all four accounts" and is "entirely faithful to the New Testament."
He added that the actor who portrays Christ conveys the notion "entirely convincingly and effectively, that Christ is enduring his passion and death willingly, in obedience to his Father, in order to satisfy for the disobedience of sin."
As to the question of whether the movie is anti-Semitic, Father Di Noia responds, "No one person and group of persons acting independently of the others is to blame: They all are."
He brought up the point that "their sins and our sins bring Christ to the cross, and he bears them willingly."
Di Noia punctuated his response with "there is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish about Mel Gibson's film."
In commenting on "The Passion of the Christ," Father Di Noia gave this summation: "Your heart would have to be made of stone for it to remain unmoved by this extraordinary film and by the unfathomable depth of divine love it endeavors to bring to life on the screen."
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003 4:20 p.m. EST
Pope Loves Mel Gibson's Film
"It is as it was."
This, Peggy Noonan reports in the Opinion Journal, was the Pope's comment to his good friend Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz after watching "The Passion of Christ," Mel Gibson's much-maligned film.
In other words, the Holy Father feels that Mel Gibson's film accurately shows how events unfolded in the last days of Christ on Earth.
The Vatican has had no official comment on the movie, but Noonan in her latest column tells us that "John Paul II, who even with the challenges of his current illness has more good sense than many of his cardinals, knew of the controversy surrounding Mr. Gibson's film, and wanted to see it."
When he did, he approved wholeheartedly of Gibson's rendering.
Producer Steve McEveety laughingly told Noonan that the pontiff saw the film "At the pope's pad," i.e., the papal apartments. "He had to watch it late in the evening," Mr. McEveety said of John Paul. "He's pretty well booked. But he really wanted to see it."
Noonan writes that the Msgr. told McEveety that John Paul II "found ["The Passion"] very powerful, and approved of it."
"I was kind of relieved – it's a scary thing," Mr. McEveety told Noonan. "But Billy Graham saw it and was very supportive, and now JPII. The amazing thing is they're in agreement on the film."
Noonan writes that the pope, in supporting the film and affirming its merits, repudiates those who feel the film, and Gibson, are anti-Semitic.
John Paul II, she writes, has done more for Judeo-Christian relations than any other pope.
This pope would know anti-Semitic, and this film isn't.
Noonan concludes: If the pontiff's feelings end the controversy over the film, it would be a "beautiful gift to everyone this holiday season."
Thursday, Dec. 25, 2003
Thousands of Clergymen to View Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of Christ'
As many as 3,000 Christian pastors will see Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of Christ" on Jan. 21, according to a statement from the Global Pastors Network
Gibson will preview the controversal film for the pastors, who represent 80 denominations from 40 countries and every state and province in North America, during a conference in Orlando, Fla.
"Academy Award-winning actor and director Mel Gibson will screen his upcoming movie, 'The Passion of The Christ,' and share his faith journey at the Global Pastors Network 'Beyond All Limits 2' Conference in Orlando, January 21, 2004," according to the network, which predicted that the film "will become an effective evangelism tool."
The network added that it believes "attendees will encourage their congregations, totalling more than one million members, to see the film and to invite others to go to the theatre with them."
The film, which is based on the Four Gospels, has been under attack from some Jewish groups and a panel of dissident Catholic and Jewish scholars, none of whom has seen it.
A spokeswoman for the network said Gibson, the star of "Braveheart," the "Lethal Weapon" films and, more recently, "We Were Soldiers," does not want to speak with the media before the late-January screening.
Gibson plans to release the film for viewing by the public on Feb. 25, which is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, which culminates with the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2004
Lutherans Weigh In on Mel Gibson's 'Passion of Christ'
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America today had its say on Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ," scheduled for release next month.
"Tragically, portrayals of the Passion over many generations have led to the virulent condemnation of Jewish communities, with Christians lashing out to punish those they had learned to call 'Christ-killers.' This doleful history demands a special vigilance from any who portray the Passion today," said the church's Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations, six Lutheran scholars and church leaders.
Gibson "has been widely quoted as aiming to produce the most accurate historical portrayal of Jesus' Passion ever filmed. This goal requires that he give credence to the critique of historical scholars who are expert in the period, cultures and sources of this story," the committee stated.
"We believe that he aspires to produce a film that will neither stir anti-Semitism nor lend itself to anti-Semitic exploitation. Individuals and organizations that work regularly to counter and diminish anti-Semitism can aid him in fulfilling that aspiration.
The panel's chairman, the Rev. Franklin Sherman, said: "This film is not the first effort to depict the events of the Passion in dramatic form." Passion plays have a long history of oversimplifying dynamics surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, blaming Jews for Jesus' death, "overlooking the role of the Roman overlords and obscuring the fact that Jesus himself and all his initial followers were Jews," he said.
Sherman said the Lutheran panel became concerned that "The Passion of the Christ" might repeat some of those mistakes when it received reviews from Christian and Jewish scholars who read an early version of the script. That concern continued as publicity was released about the film, he said.
"We have also been informed by reports from persons who have seen the film as shown to selected audiences during the past few months," Sherman said.
The Lutheran panel urged ELCA pastors and educators "to learn the history of Passion portrayals and their consequences for the Jewish community" and "to teach boldly in their congregations and to make public witness to this church's commitment to confess its faith and preach its gospel in ways that will not demean, malign or harm the Jewish people."
The committee called for ELCA congregations, civic organizations and others to conduct public studies and discussions about Passion portrayals, including Gibson's movie. "Open discussion and analysis of the Passion whenever it is portrayed will assist Jews and Christians and others in our communities to understand one another, the diversity of our respective views and the Passion itself as central to Christian faith," it said.
"We want to try to convert what could be an occasion for hostility between Christians and Jews into an occasion for deepened understanding and mutual respect," Sherman said.
"Our statement is designed to help Lutherans and others to be informed and critical viewers of the film, aware of some of the difficulties of translating the Passion story into dramatic form, which has to invent dialogue by the various characters and attribute motives to them in a way that goes beyond what we actually know from the New Testament," Sherman said. "We hope people will be on guard against any tendency to blame 'the Jews' collectively for Jesus' death, rather than only a small circle of Jewish collaborators with the Roman authorities."
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004
Gibson Plans Record Wide Release of 'The Passion of the Christ'
Outside of the major cities, few Americans get a chance to see foreign-language movies. But if you want to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," you can rest easy.
The movie, with English subtitles and dialogue in Latin and Aramaic, is scheduled to debut on 2,000 screens on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.
That would mark by far the widest opening ever of a subtitled picture, Variety reported Wednesday.
"I knew it would start building and building, but now it's like a tsunami," said Bob Berney, president of the movie's distributor, New Market Films. "We've had a flood of calls. People call and say, 'I want 10,000 tickets.'"
Church groups are already ordering large blocks of tickets, and theater chains have set up toll-free numbers to take advance orders, the New York Times reported today. One cinema in Plano, Texas, is reserving all of its 20 screens for the movie, to be screened starting at 6:30 a.m. on opening day.
Looks as if all the hateful attacks on the movie by would-be censors have backfired.
And if you're wondering about the title, yes, it used to be called "The Passion of Christ" and was originally "The Passion."
Monday, Jan. 19, 2004 11 a.m. EST
N.Y. Times Unglued Over Pope's Mel Gibson Support
Mel Gibson is cynically using a "frail" Pope John Paul II to help him recover the $25 million he spent making his new film, "The Passion of the Christ."
That's the charge of New York Times lead art critic Frank Rich in his column Sunday.
Rich also says Gibson is engaging in "spiritual McCarthyism" and "hard-knuckle religious politics" to smear critics of the film.
Rich also implies that the pope's closest aide may have attributed to His Holiness praise for the film that the pontiff never uttered.
The papal comment that unhinged Rich was the pope's conclusion after screening the film at his Vatican apartment.
"It is as it was," the pope reportedly said, endorsing the historc accuracy of the film.
The reported comment provoked the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Abraham Foxman, previously a critic of Gibson and the film, to soften his stance, saying, "The pope has a record and history of sensitivity to the Jewish community and has a clear moral voice and understanding when it comes to anti-Semitism."
But Rich doesn't buy the papal endorsement.
Writes Rich in Sunday's Times: "Pope John Paul II, frail with Parkinson's at 83, is rarely able to celebrate Mass. But why should his suffering deter a Hollywood producer from roping him into a publicity campaign to sell a movie?"
Though Rich has never seen the movie and has not been invited to a screening, he castigates almost everyone who has defended Gibson, such as columnists Robert Novak and Peggy Noonan.
Noonan, for example, went out of her way to note that the film does not indict Jews for the passion and death of Christ.
Instead she wrote, "It is a film that leaves the viewer indicting not Jews and not Romans - it leaves you indicting yourself: It leaves you wondering about what your part in that agonizing drama would have been back then, and what your part is today."
Rich argues that the pope has been exploited by Gibson to help him recoup his huge investment in the film.
"What can be said without qualification is that the marketing of this film remains a masterpiece of ugliness typical of the cultural moment, when hucksters wield holier-than-thou piety as a club for their own profit," Rich wrote.
Though Rich claims Gibson and his supporters are engaged in a "witch hunt," he has engaged in some rather harsh language to describe those who have spoken favorably of it.
As NewsMax.com's James Hirsen has said, this is the same Frank Rich who displayed his tolerance, diversity and understanding by writing that Gibson and his organization have been "baiting Jews," Matt Drudge is a "token Jew," traditionalist Catholics are a "fringe church," Rupert Murdoch is a "conservative non-Jew," Gibson spokesman Alan Nierob "plays bizarre games with the Holocaust" and Bill O'Reilly is "being paid" to defend Gibson.
But many others who have seen and praised Gibson's film have escaped Rich's wrath.
One is the Rev. Billy Graham, who said: "I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus' death. After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there. I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection - which Christians believe are the most important events in human history. The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned. It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group. No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same."
The film has also won praise from Hollywood insiders, including Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association.
Rich Questions Papal Comment
Rich cites "the highly respected Catholic News Service" to question claims that the pope commented on the film by quoting "a senior Vatican official close to the pope" as saying that after seeing the movie, the pope "made no comment. The Holy Father does not comment, does not give judgments on art."
Rich quotes other Vatican officials as claiming that the pope doesn't endorse films and he locates the villain of the piece, the pope's secretary Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, whom "Vatican watchers" (who he doesn't identify) "describe as second in power only to the pope."
Rich reports that a video of "The Passion" was given to Archbishop Dziwisz on Dec. 5, adding that the archbishop later convened a meeting with Gibson's producer Steve McEveety and Jan Michelini, the movie's assistant director "in the pope's apartment."
Michelini claims that the archbishop told him the pope commented, "It is as it was," and also called the movie "incredible." Michelini translates incredible as meaning "amazing," but Rich suggests that it also means "unbelievable."
Despite the controversy, the movie will premiere on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday, in 2,000 theaters around the nation.
According to E! Online, "The Passion is scheduled to play on more screens than last month's Christmas comedy Bad Santa and other major Hollywood releases such as Big Fish."
Monday, Jan. 19, 2004
Mel Gibson Rebuts Vatican Denial
Mel Gibson's spokesman issued a statement late Monday saying there is no reason to believe the Vatican's denial that the Pope commented favorably about the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."
Associates of Gibson quoted the pope as commenting, after viewing the film, "It is as it was."
Since then, questions have swirled about the papal statement, and the pope's remarks angered critics of the film, who claim it will arouse anti-Semitism. The film is set for release on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.
On Monday, the Catholic News Service, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported that the pope "never" made such a statement.
CNS quoted the pope's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.
"The Holy Father told no one his opinion of this film," the archbishop told CNS. But Steve McEveety, the film's co-producer, and Jan Michelini, its assistant director, said they met Archbishop Dziwisz after the papal viewing. Dziwisz told them the pope simply commented, "It is as it was."
Now, Dziwisz claims, "That is not true."
"I said clearly to McEveety and Michelini that the Holy Father made no declaration," the archbishop told CNS.
In a statement issued late Monday, Gibson's spokesman Alan Nierob stated:
"Based on all previous correspondence and conversations held directly between representatives of the film and the official spokesperson for the Pope, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, there is no reason to believe that the Pope's support of the film 'isn't as it was'."
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004 8:21 p.m. EST
CNN Vatican Analyst: Sources Confirm Pope's Mel Gibson Quote
This week the pope's personal secretary, Archibishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, denied that the pope had offered any comment after privately screening Mel Gibson's upcoming "The Passion of the Christ" – due in theaters Feb. 25.
But John Allen, CNN's Vatican analyst and a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, told network anchor Miles O'Brien that Vatican sources had confirmed to him that the pope did indeed comment on the film.
In December, Gibson's production firm, Icon, and columnist Peggy Noonan reported that after viewing the movie, the pope declared, "It is as it was."
The remark suggested that the pope was giving his imprimatur to the historical accuracy of the film. The papal endorsement angered critics of the film, who believe it will fuel anti-Semitism.
Controversy over the comments renewed this week with Dziwisz's denial. "The Holy Father told no one his opinion of this film," Dziwisz told Catholic News Service.
Gibson, through his spokesman, said that he believed the pope made that comment and that communications between Icon and the Vatican confirm the claim.
Allen indicated that Vatican sources have confirmed the papal quote.
"In mid-December, December 17, to be specific, a senior Vatican official told my newspaper that the pope had seen the film and had said, 'It is as it was' – meaning, as you indicated, that the pope found it to be historically accurate based on the Gospels."
Allen added that sources continue to assert the attributed papal comment, despite his secretary's denial.
"Now, at the same time, we have other Vatican officials, on background, who are continuing to insist the pope did say this," Allen told CNN.
"And we have yet other sources on the record who are saying they heard Dziwisz on other occasions say the pope did say it."
The bottom line, Allen suggested, is the implicit endorsement Gibson's movie received simply by the pope watching the movie.
"The mere fact that he took this seriously enough to sit down and watch it is in itself a kind of positive statement about what he thought was there," Allen said.
Peggy Noonan: The Mystery of the Papal E-mails
The red-hot controversy over what Pope John Paul II did or did not say after viewing Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has bogged down in a "certain amount of intrigue" that resembles "something out of 'The DaVinci Code,'" wrote Peggy Noonan in her column Thursday on OpinionJournal.com.
She recalled that her widely noted Dec. 17 column reported Pope John Paul II, after seeing the film, told Vatican associates, "It is as it was."
That quote, she added, came from the film's co-producer Steve McEveety, who told her that he heard it from lips of the pope's longtime private secretary, Archbishop Stanislau Dziwisz.
Adding apparent confirmation, The National Catholic Reporter ran a piece by Rome correspondent John L. Allen Jr. reporting that the Vatican had given a "thumbs up" to the film. The story quoted a senior Vatican official who spoke on condition of anonymity: "The Holy Father watched and enjoyed the film" and after viewing the film commented, 'It is as it was.'" The next day Reuters reported "in a dispatch with a Vatican dateline" that a Vatican source said the pope had seen the film, and was "moved" by it, and afterward said, "It is as it was." Then, a week later on Dec. 24 came a bombshell:
Reporter Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service (CNS) wrote that an unnamed "senior Vatican official close to the pope" denied that the pope said any such thing. Insisting that "The Holy Father does not comment, does not give judgments on art," Wooden quoted the official as saying, "I repeat: There was no declaration, no judgment from the pope." CNS also quoted another anonymous Vatican official as saying, "The Holy Father saw this film, but did not express any opinion on it." Adding to the confusion, National Catholic Reporter's Allen defended his piece in a story on Jan. 9, writing that his original source, "a well placed Vatican official who is normally a reliable guide to the pope's mind," said that the pope did indeed utter the hallenged quote. Allen added that the pope and Archbishop Dziwisz had watched the film in the dining room of the pope's private apartment on a television with a large screen and a videocassette recorder.
Wooden dropped another bombshell quoting Dziwisz as denying that the pope made the comment attributed to him by the papal secretary: "I said clearly to McEveety ... that the Holy Father made no declaration," Dziwisz said.
"What gives?' a perplexed Noonan asked in her column. "The answer to that question is important for several reasons," she wrote. "The truth matters. What a pope says matters. And what this pontiff says about this film matters." The film, due to open Feb. 25, has been the focus of an intense critical onslaught since last summer, she noted. And because it has been "fiercely denounced as anti-Semitic, and accused of perpetuating stereotypes that will fan hatred against Jews," the pope's comments about it would "have great importance" due to his "long personal and professional history of opposing anti-Semitism, of working against it, and of calling for dialogue, respect and reconciliation between all religions." Sometime after Noonan had viewed the film last year, she communicated with McEveety, who told her "with great excitement" that he had spoken to Archbishop Dzivisz, who told him that the pope had shared his reaction, commenting: "It is as it was." She traced the development of controversy that has now erupted:
McEveety told Noonan that he had discussed the archbishop's report with Joaquin Navarro-Valls, head of the Vatican press office and reported that Dr. Navarro Valls told him he could use the papal quote when asked about the Holy Father's reaction to the film. Noonan then sent an e-mail to Dr. Navarro-Valls at the Vatican asking him about the quote but got no reply. She sent a second e-mail and got a non-committal reply that failed to address the question. McEveety e-mailed Navarro-Valls asking for his help. He said that Navarro-Valls answered by e-mail advising him not to worry, to use the phrase "It is as it was," and to repeat those words "again and again and again." McEveety sent Noonan a copy of the e-mail. On Wednesday, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News e-mailed Navarro-Valls and asked him about the e-mails he had sent to McEveety. He asked how the Vatican spokesman could deny the pope's quote when he had told the producer to use it again and again.
Navarro-Valls quickly replied that "the e-mails were not authentic, and suggested that they were fabricated. Noonan then wrote Navarro-Valls and asked him to confirm his e-mail to Dreher. "The return address on Dr. Navarro-Valls's e-mail to Rod Dreher was the same as the one on his e-mails to me," Noonan wrote. "We did some checking on Dr. Navarro-Valls's e-mail to me of Dec. 17. It was sent via an e-mail server in the Vatican's domain, and the IP address belongs to a Vatican computer." She is yet to get a response to her latest e-mail to Navarro-Valls. This week she says that she spoke to McEveety but that he declined to speak on the record about Navarro-Valls or the controversy that continues to swirl." Noonan promised she'd "be writing more soon about this extraordinary story."
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 7:24 p.m. EST
Mel Gibson Issues Statement About Papal Quote
Mel Gibson, through his spokesman Alan Nierob, issued a statement again late Thursday as controversy swirled over a disputed comment attributed to Pope John Paul II after viewing "The Passion of the Christ."
Gibson's statement offered by Nierob follows:
We have had and continue to have friendly and open communication with the Vatican. Both Archbishop Stanislau Dziwisz and Joaquín Navarro-Valls have been very supportive of this project. We received written permission to publicize the Pope's comment on the film, "It is as it was." Unless we receive an official indication to the contrary, we will continue to stand by the statement.
CathNews Admits Papal Quote True
CathNews, an online news service, reported today that the pope did in fact offer praise for Mel Gibson's new film, "The Passion of the Christ."
Gibson's production company, Icon, had claimed that it was informed by Vatican officials that after seeing the film the pope remarked, "It is as it was."
Earlier this week, Catholic News Service quoted Vatican sources, including the pope's longtime personal secretary, as saying the pope offered no comment about the film. CNS reported that the Vatican categorically denied Gibson's claim about the papal remark.
But now another Catholic news agency report, CathNews, published a story clarifying what really happened.
In its report headlined "Vatican ends controversy on Mel Gibson film publicity," CathNews stated flatly that it "would now appear to be that the Pope did see the film and he did say the comment that was attributed to him but it was meant purely as private comment and not for public consumption."
The acknowledgement came on the heels of an official Vatican statement issued Thursday "to end the speculation confirming the Pope has seen the film but saying: 'It is the Holy Father´s custom not to express public judgments on artistic works, judgments which are always open to diverse evaluations of an aesthetic nature.'"
CathNews admitted that the erroneous Catholic News report had caused headaches for Gibson and his production company: "The matter has turned into a public relations nightmare not only for the Vatican but also for Mel Gibson´s company, Icon Productions."
Other Holy See officials have seen the film and expressed their approval of it.
These include Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and Dominican Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 10:52 p.m. EST
ADL Sneaked Into Film
After screening Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ," the Anti-Defamation League issued a scathing press release Thursday stating that the film will foster anti-Semitism.
But sources close to Gibson's production company told NewsMax's James Hirsen that the ADL, which was hostile to the film before anyone had even viewed it, has never been invited to screen it.
How, then, was the ADL able to see the movie?
In their press release, ADL National Director Abrahama Foxman and another ADL official said they saw the film while attending a "religious gathering" in Orlando, Fla., called the Beyond All Limits Conference.
As it turned out, Hirsen informs us, the religious conference is organized by the Global Pastors Network.
Sources at Icon Productions were surprised to learn that the uninvited ADL officials had registered for the Christian conference under the name "The Church of Truth."
Soon after seeing the film, the ADL issued a strongly worded statement that calls Gibson's picture a "painful portrayal" and a "commercial crusade to the church community."
Despite the hoopla, a number of Christian leaders who have seen the film found it remarkably consistent with Gospel accounts of Jesus' last hours and in no way condemnatory of Jewish people.
America's most influential minister, the Rev. Billy Graham, gave a glowing review of the movie.
"I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus' death," Graham said.
"After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there.
"I was moved to tears. I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection – which Christians believe are the most important events in human history.
"The film is faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned. It is our sins that caused His death, not any particular group."
"No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same," Graham said
Catholic Editor: It's Clear Vatican Gave Gibson Permission to Use Pope's Comment
Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com
A leading Catholic layman and editor of Crisis Magazine says he has no doubt that Vatican officials gave Mel Gibson permission to quote Pope John Paul II as commenting "It is as it was" after seeing Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ."
"It's unfortunate that the Vatican has reversed itself," Deal Hudson told NewsMax.com. "Once you have allowed somebody to make use of a recommendation it's awkward, to say the least, to try and take that permission back."
Hudson leaves no doubt he believes that the Vatican did tell Gibson he was free to use the quote. "I think it's clear they did give their permission," he said.
Considered one of the nation's most influential Catholic layman, and known to be an occasional adviser to White House strategist Karl Rove, Hudson said he'd like to know what and who was responsible for the Vatican's sudden turnaround.
"There are two questions that should be raised. First, what pressure was brought to bear and by who to bring about this reversal?" he said.
The second, he said, deals with why the Vatican ever gave its permission in the first place. Hudson said that "this is why heads of state don't do book and film recommendations, because this is exactly the kind of tar baby that can be created. They probably never should have given any blurb to this film in the first place, but once permission was given they should have stuck by it."
Hudson said he had no hope that the controversy would ever be resolved. "They gave permission; they took it back. They deny they gave it. How do you resolve that?" he asked.
"Probably the permission should never have been given, but once it is given, no matter what happens you should admit that you gave it. The best thing to do would be to say, 'We made a mistake,' rather than deny you gave it."
In an e-mail to Gibson's co-producer, Steve McEveety, Vatican spokesman Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls allegedly wrote, "I would try to make the words 'It is as it was' the leit motive [sic] in any discusion [sic] on the film. Repeat the words again and again and again."
Navarro-Valls now denies he sent that e-mail, but columnist Rod Dreher reports that the e-mail McEveety received came through the same venue as other e-mails sent to him and to Opinionjournal.com columnist Peggy Noonan by the Vatican spokesman.
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Donohue: 'Relentless' Attacks on 'The Passion' Will Backfire
William Donohue, president of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, issued the following statement today on the latest controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ":
"Never has there been such an unseemly campaign to discredit a film of such epic proportions. The guilty include journalists, Catholic and Jewish theologians and Jewish activists. Their goal all along has been to portray Mel Gibson as a retro-Catholic anti-Semite, and to upend his film with charges of violence in the streets. But their relentless campaign is ultimately futile: at the end of the day, the people will judge the movie. And they will also judge Gibson's foes for what they have sought to do.
"It was reported last month that the pope, after seeing the film, commented, 'It is as it was.' That is when the campaign to discredit the movie went into high gear, pulling out all the stops. The result being that we are now supposed to believe that the pope watched 'The Passion' but had nothing to say about it because 'It is common practice of the Holy Father not to express public opinions on artistic works. ...' Yet in 1999 the Holy Father released a list of his top-45 favorite movies, among them being such interesting choices as Pier Paolo Pasolini's 'The Gospel According to St. Matthew' (number 2) and Franco Zeffirelli’s 'Jesus of Nazareth' (number 5).
"There is little doubt the words, 'It is as it was,' are exactly what the pope said. There is also little doubt that some Vatican officials now think it better to keep the pope out of the controversy.
"The following is from the Catholic Catechism: 'The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial of Jesus in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost.' Nothing in the movie contradicts this interpretation and that is why it is so scurrilous for anyone to suggest otherwise."
Saturday, Jan. 24, 2004 2:46 p.m. EST
Mel Gibson: I Was Threatened
Mel Gibson says he was threatened by critics of his upcoming movie, "The Passion of the Christ," if he didn't make changes to the film's script.
Gibson, who produced the film and spent $30 million of his own money to make it, believes a group of scholars comprised of Christians and Jews stole a script and used it as the basis for their attacks.
Jewish leaders have also claimed that the film is anti-Semitic and will fuel hatred against Jews.
Gibson denies both allegations.
"They wrote a document to say change this scene, take this scene out, change this dialogue, do this, do that," Gibson is quoted by CNN as saying.
"This is not communist Russia. Does anybody realize that my rights as an American, as an artist, as a human being ... are being violated here?" Gibson added.
Sunday, Jan. 25, 2004 2:03 p.m. EST
Mel Gibson's 'Christ' Reveals Crucifixion
In his first nationally broadcast interview about his starring role in Mel Gibson's much-anticipated film "The Passion of Christ," James Caviezel - Gibson's Jesus - detailed on Friday the ordeal of filming the Crucifixion scenes, noting that the overall experience prompted many in the crew to convert to Catholicism.
"I was on the cross about five weeks in 30 degree temperatures," Caviezel told nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity.
"It was up on the side of a cliff. It's like going up to the Grand Canyon. When the wind gets going, you're in the center of a twister. The Cross is teetering and I'm looking down on all these people shivering in their jackets and mittens. I'm up there for days - nothing on, my arms tied down."
Caviezel said Gibson did his best to make filming the Cross scenes more comfortable by positioning heaters at his feet out of camera range. But the effort merely resulted in giving him "fried toes," he said.
The frigid temperatures and cooked flesh turned out to be the least of Caviezel's problems.
"During the scourging scenes, there was a board on my back and the Romans would wind up and hit it," he told Hannity. "And this guy hit me square on the back and I had a 14 inch scar on my back and it really knocked the wind out of me."
The physical punishment, however, wasn't as traumatic as the lightning that struck him while he was hanging on the Cross.
"I was lit up like a Christmas tree," the actor told Hannity.
"It felt as if I had two hands slapping my head and all of a sudden I had 200 extras scurrying. I had no idea what happened. All I was seeing was pink and a kind of a fuzzy static in front of my eyes."
Caviezel said that when one of the crew came over to check if he was OK, he was struck by lightning, too.
Asked if he thought the lightning strike was "a sign from God," Caviezel told Hannity, "I think the whole thing has been that way."
Noting "the amount of conversions on the movie," he said the experience of filming Christ's story "really changed people's lives."
Caviezel recalled telling Gibson, "I think it's very important that we have mass every day - at least I need that to play this guy."
"I felt if I was going to play him I needed [the sacrament] in me. So [Gibson] provided that."
At the same time, Caviezel said, Gibson went out of his way to be "very respectful to people like Maya Morgenstern, who's Jewish and whose parent was a Holocaust survivor." Morgenstern plays the Virgin Mary in the film.
He defended "Passion" against charges by critics that the film encourages anti-Semitism, stressing that it offers sympathetic portrayals of Mary, the Apostles and other Jewish figures.
"There's no broad brush applied here to any particular group," he told Hannity. "This film does not play the blame game.
"We are all culpable for the death of Christ," added the film's star. "My sins, your sins put him on that cross."
Caviezel credited Gibson with pulling off the immensely difficult project.
"Working with Mel Gibson was a little bit like waltzing with a hurricane," he told Hannity. "It's always exciting and you're never quite sure where it's going to take you. The guy is kinetically a genius."
Monday, Jan. 26, 2004
CBS's 'The Early Show' Twists Mel Gibson's Remarks
Last Friday night, Jan. 23, Mel Gibson was interviewed by Raymond Arroyo on the EWTN show "The World Over" concerning Gibson's soon-to-be-released movie, "The Passion of the Christ." Portions of that interview were shown on several TV shows, but only one has created any controversy: CBS's "The Early Show" that aired today. "The Early Show" ran the following exchange between Arroyo and Gibson:
Gibson: "The film collectively blames humanity for the death of Jesus. Now there are no exemptions there, all right? I'm the first on the line for culpability — I did it. Christ died for all men, for all times."
Arroyo: "Including the Jewish people?"
Gibson: "Yeah. They’re part of the human race. ..."
Introducing the segment dealing with Gibson's remarks prior to showing the clip, "The Early Show's" Rene Syler said, "Some critics say [the film is] anti-Semitic because it blames Jews for the Crucifixion." Incredibly, she then added this completely misleading statement: "In a TV interview Gibson does not deny it."
Said shocked Catholic League president William Donohue: "CBS has now added to the ruthless campaign against Mel Gibson and his movie. The statement by Rene Syler of what Gibson said was dishonest. To the extent that viewers accept her conclusion, they might well think Gibson is a bigot. But any fair-minded person who reads what Gibson actually said knows that CBS has acted unethically. CBS owes Mel Gibson an apology.
"The movie is a month away and the campaign against it has reached a fever pitch. The Catholic League is ready for the fight and will not be silenced by those who want to dictate history – past, present and future."
"The Passion of the Christ" will appear on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, in some 2,000 theaters across the nation. Reportedly, despite the vicious campaign against it, many movie houses have been swamped with advance orders for tickets.
On Feb. 25, Mel Gibson’s epic film "The Passion of the Christ" will appear on thousands of movie screens across the nation. The cinematic launch will occur despite unprecedented attempts to alter its content and thwart its release. The Left Coast Report presents some of the lowlights of the past year in hopes that the heroic resolve and artistic vision of the film’s creators can be fully appreciated.
A Special Edition of
THE LEFT COAST REPORT
It all started January of last year.
Mel Gibson appeared on Fox News’ "The O’Reilly Factor."
The famed actor-producer-director let the world know that a print reporter was nosing around his family and friends trying to dig up dirt.
The reporter was freelance journalist Christopher Noxon. He wrote a hit piece that focused on Gibson’s 85-year-old father. The article mischaracterized Mel’s beliefs and those of his dad. It also tried to label the film as fringe propaganda.
Noxon’s dirt-digging expedition might have been related to his family’s interest in the same Malibu site where Mel Gibson was building a church. The plot thickened as another group planned a full Gibson assault.
With the help of an individual dubbed in an e-mail "our Deep Throat," a group of academics, who are part of what’s known as the interfaith movement, got hold of a stolen early draft of a confidential script.
Using ideas and notes from the pilfered preliminary screenplay, the group generated a so-called confidential report, which twisted the film’s message.
Somehow the report landed in the hands of the news media. A number of its authors appeared delighted to have their criticisms aired in public, despite the fact that the report was based on incomplete, dated, confidential and pirated material.
In addition to theft, it seems that falsification was also part of the unscholarly game. The group tried to pawn itself off as an official body of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), but the USCCB subsequently issued a statement denying a connection with the anti-Gibson group.
Boston University’s Paula Fredriksen has been a particularly high-profile player in the anti-Passion drama. She has referred to Scripture as "a kind of religious advertisement." She has promoted the idea that the Gospels "proclaim their individual author's interpretation of the Christian message through the device of using Jesus of Nazareth as a spokesperson for the evangelist’s position."
On Dec. 22, 2001, the Washington Post delivered a sort of un-Christmas present from Fredriksen in the form of a comment about the trustworthiness of the New Testament. The Post quoted her as saying, "I can’t think of any New Testament scholar who takes [the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth] to be historically reliable," adding that most scholars believe that Christ was not born in Bethlehem.
It appears as though Fredricksen and friends could be on a mission to deconstruct the Gospels. They prattle on about "progressive interpretation" and "historical context" when it seems that what they really want is a rewrite of the Good Book. Could it be that their real beef with Mel has to do with the fact that he based his movie on the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?
"The Passion" saga continued as film-snuffing sights were set on a potential distributor.
Suppression of Expression
In an effort to get Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox to decline to distribute Gibson’s film, New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind scheduled a press conference and demonstration. The event was supposed to take place in front of News Corp.’s Manhattan headquarters.
20th Century Fox usually distributes Gibson’s movies, but gave a thumbs down on "The Passion."
As the New York Daily News reported, other Hollywood studios were also less than enthusiastic about taking on the project.
Additionally, the New York Times rubbed salt into Icon Productions’ wounds by describing the film as chronicling "in bloody detail" the last hours of Jesus’ life. It also called it "potentially inflammatory" and "not commercial enough for a high-profile mainstream studio like Fox."
In typical Gibson fashion, Mel and the crew gripped the wheel, rode out the bumps and were successful in finding distribution.
Unfortunately, more trouble lay ahead.
In November of last year, the New York Post illegally obtained a pirated videotape of the Gibson film. Although this revelation is extraordinary in its own right, it’s what a major newspaper did with the tape that made ignoble cinematic history.
Months before the film’s scheduled release, the Post displayed the grainy second-generation videotape to its own assembled panel of critics. Four of the five reviewers who were present slammed the film in the pages of the paper.
Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack put feelings into words in this way. He told E! Online News, "If I had made that picture, I would have felt raped."
Evidently the shenanigans weren’t just outrageous, they were also illegal. The Los Angeles Times reported that federal authorities launched a probe.
Gibson and the folks at Icon had more head and heartache to endure.
Also in November, Anti-Defamation League held its annual meeting in New York.
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman let loose with one of the ugliest assaults on Gibson that had occurred to date. He said, "I think he’s infected – seriously infected – with some very, very serious anti-Semitic views."
These words spewed forth from the leader of an organization that purportedly stands for tolerance.
Ironically, instead of modeling a virtue, Foxman ended up demonstrating exactly what hate speech sounds like.
In January 2004, uninvited ADL officials registered for a Christian pastors’ conference where Gibson’s film was set to be shown. They used the fabricated name "The Church of Truth" to gain entrance to the event.
After seeing the film, ADL denounced Gibson’s picture as a "painful portrayal" and a "commercial crusade to the church community."
Most recently, Foxman requested that Gibson attach a disclaimer (drafted by Foxman) to the film denouncing any bigoted interpretation of his narrative.
No similar disclaimer has yet been submitted by Foxman for the spurious and insulting remarks he made about Gibson.
At the same time Mel and his mates were dealing with ADL matters, they were also experiencing an insidious print blitz.
It seems that New York Times arts columnist Frank Rich felt the need to gear up the sleaze machine several times over to generate innuendo.
In his Aug. 3 column, Rich got stuck in sludge-slinging overdrive. He wrote that Gibson and his organization had been "baiting Jews," Matt Drudge was a "token Jew," traditionalist Catholics were a "fringe church," Rupert Murdoch was a "conservative non-Jew," Peter J. Boyer’s article "sanitizes" Mel’s father, Bill O’Reilly was "being paid" to defend Gibson, and Gibson spokesman Alan Nierob "plays bizarre games with the Holocaust." (Rich evidently missed the fact that Nierob is a second-generation Holocaust survivor and a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Museum.)
Rich even tried to take a swipe at me. He claimed to "decode" a section of my book "Tales from the Left Coast," where I supposedly have "a fetish of repeating Bob Dylan’s original name."
In September, the Jayson Blair understudy heaved more rubbish in Gibson’s direction. After a Vatican official (who happens to be on the short list of papal prospects) raved about the movie and dismissed concerns over bigotry, Rich evidently decided to change his focus. Instead of going after the Passion product, he’d try attacking the Passion process.
He wrote, "Intentionally or not, the contentious rollout of ‘The Passion’ has resembled a political campaign, from its start on ‘The O'Reilly Factor.’"
Getting little traction with that one, Rich tried to jump into a story that involved a higher authority.
‘The Passion’ and the Pope
On Dec. 17, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal reported that Pope John Paul II had seen Gibson’s movie and said, "It is as it was."
Noonan had been given a written confirmation for the quote from the pope’s official spokesman via e-mail.
The same day, National Catholic Reporter’s main man at the Vatican, John Allen, reported the identical quote and attributed it to the pontiff. An unnamed senior Vatican official confirmed the quote. The following day, Reuters joined in on reporting the pope’s quote and cited an unnamed Vatican source.
The Los Angeles Times received its own independent corroboration for the story on Dec. 19.
On Dec. 24, Catholic News Service’s Cindy Wooden claimed to have talked to "a senior Vatican official close to the pope" who said that the pontiff never said those words.
On Jan. 9, Allen reported that he had double-checked his original source and that the pope did indeed say, "It is as it was."
Enter once again Frank Rich of the New York Times.
On Jan. 18, Rich tossed more journalistic mud pies. He accused Gibson and Steve McEveety of using the pope to make money.
The next day Catholic News Service reported that the pope’s secretary said that "the Holy Father made no declaration" about the film.
Two days later, L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten apparently signed up to be Rich’s Left Coast colleague. He wrote a vile piece that began, "A good Hollywood publicity campaign does not stumble over technicalities — like the truth. Still, it takes a particular sort of chutzpah to put a phony quote in the mouth of Pope John Paul II."
Actually it takes a particular sort of chutzpah for a columnist to forget to check his own paper’s records before he writes on a subject.
On Jan. 23, in a news article, the Times admitted that "last month, the ailing pontiff was quoted as having said after a private screening of the film ‘it is as it was.’ Asked Dec. 19 whether the quote was reliable, Vatican press secretary Joaquin Navarro-Valls told the Times ‘I think you can consider that quote as accurate.’"
The truth is that, from the beginning, Icon has had written authorization to go public with the pope’s statement on "The Passion of the Christ." My sources have enabled me to confirm the graphic nod with my own eyes.
After stories began to emerge that questioned whether the quote was for real, Icon’s McEveety immediately e-mailed the official Vatican press secretary and offered to discourage use of the quote. Navarro-Valls responded with an e-mail, which not only reaffirmed that use of the quote was fine but advised McEveety to use the phrase "again and again and again."
Even the New York Times on Jan. 20 wrote, "One prominent Roman Catholic official close to the Vatican said today, ‘I have reason to believe — and I think — that the pope probably said it.’"
So what we have here are four respected news organizations getting independent verification, and Icon Productions getting confirmation, authorization and encouragement, to use the pope’s "it is as it was" statement.
The way I see it, the Icon team has held fast to the truth and suffered the stripes with amazing grace.
The Left Coast Report thinks that, because "The Passion of the Christ" and its people have managed to survive insults, stolen scripts, threats of demonstration, pirated prints and dire predictions, the continuous triumphs are no mere coincidence. The more appropriate term to use would be providential.
The Left Coast Report is put together by James L. Hirsen and the staff of NewsMax.
Friday, Jan. 30, 2004
Gibson on 'Passion,' Faith and the Holocaust
For the March issue of Reader's Digest, Peggy Noonan interviewed Mel Gibson. They spoke about his movie "The Passion of Christ," among other things.
For instance, she asked Gibson: "You're going to have to go on record. The Holocaust happened, right?"
Gibson told her: "I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened."
Noonan queried Gibson on this issue because of reports that Mel's father doesn't believe Hitler killed 6 million Jews. Gibson told Noonan: "My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life."
Gibson also spoke about that strong Catholic faith. He told Noonan he spent years being "a monster," and that success caused him to become "spiritually bankrupt."
And, while he has gotten back to his roots, so to speak, he admits his spiritual life is "nowhere complete yet." He says he's "still so full of flaws."
About the controversy surrounding "The Passion," Gibson shrugs it off – and jokes that his next movie will be "something light and funny and nobody'll be angry at me!"
Finally, Noonan asked Gibson to "Give me the headline you want to see on the biggest paper in America the day after 'The Passion' opens."
Mel replied: "War Ends."
Monday, Feb. 2, 2004
Foes Plan to 'Mute' Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'
Opponents of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," along with their allies and those afraid to offend them (many of whom have never even seen the movie), are already planning to counter it.
Foes "are planning lecture series, interfaith talks and other programs to try to mute the film's impact," the Associated Press reported today.
"Do I think there will be pogroms as a result of this movie? No," said Rabbi David Elcott, American Jewish Committee's interfaith director.
"It's part of something larger, which is a hardening of religious conversation. It is such an absolutist movie. It undermines the progress that we've made in this country toward mutual respect and religious pluralism," he said.
As of now, opponents reportedly do not plan boycotts or protests outside theaters.
"Artists have every right to create any kind of movie they want, but an audience has the absolute right to pass judgment on that," said Rabbi James Rudin, an adviser for the committee.
American Jewish Committee is sending a 40-page "resource guide" to chapters nationwide on how to explain concerns about the movie. Rudin is urging Christian colleagues not to use the movie as an educational tool.
Leaders of Reform Judaism want members to "sit down with churches in your community" to "discuss" the film, said Mark Pelavin, director of Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism.
Boston College's Center for Christian-Jewish Learning has posted a study guide explaining Gospel accounts of the crucifixion and how Christian churches rejected accusations of deicide against Jews. The center plans a series of talks on the subject.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to reissue its criteria for dramatizing the crucifixion along with statements on Catholic-Jewish relations.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is urging pastors to "teach boldly" that it does not "demean, malign or harm the Jewish people" when preaching the Gospel. The church's communications director, the Rev. Eric Shafer, saw the movie and said that it was not anti-Jewish but was "part Gospel story and part myth" and that viewers could assume it was based entirely on the Bible.
AP noted: "The campaign is being undertaken in the face of a massive evangelistic effort by many American churches in conjunction with the movie's release. Several prominent conservative Christians, including the Rev. Billy Graham, said the film was among the most powerful depictions they'd seen of Christ's last hours."
Of course, no such campaign is going on to "mute"Hollywood's recent string of dreadful and offensive movies.
Gibson Seeks Truce
Gibson sent a conciliatory letter Friday asking his sharpest critic, ADL's Abraham Foxman, to join him in "setting an example for all our brethren" by following the path of respect and "love for each other despite our differences," the Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.
Foxman's response is unknown.
Meanwhile, those eager to see the movie are rejecting any attempts at censorship.
"In Plano, two members of a Baptist mega-church bought out a 20-screen multiplex so 6,000 people could watch the premiere of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ.' In Costa Mesa, Calif., a nondenominational church is canceling services on opening weekend and has rented 10 movie theaters. In Dallas, a NASCAR sponsor plans to redesign its race car's exterior to promote the film. In Riverside, Calif., another Baptist church, energized by the film's coming, designed an ad to be shown on all 18 screens of a multiplex for three months," the Los Angeles Times reported.
"Just what kind of box office 'The Passion' will do when it opens Feb. 25 is impossible to predict. But it is clear that Gibson has tapped into a network of Christian church-based marketing that has been maturing for decades and that has been waiting, with almost biblical patience, for a high-profile, celebrity-backed religious picture to capture the nation's attention."
Monday, Feb. 2, 2004 5:16 p.m. EST
Mel Gibson Waves Olive Branch at ADL
Embroiled in a swirling controversy over his new movie, "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson has asked his main critic for a truce.
In a letter sent Friday to the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman, Gibson asked Foxman to join him in "setting an example for all of our brethren; that the truest path to follow, the only path, is that of respect and, most importantly, that of love for each other despite our differences," according to the Los Angeles Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.
As the Times reports, the letter comes on the heels of a screening of the film in Orlando, Fla., which Foxman and a colleague infiltrated. Foxman later issued a press release charging that the film is unflattering to Jews and asked Gibson to make changes in the still-unreleased movie, which is due to premiere on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.
According to the Times, Gibson told Foxman, "It is my sincerest of regrets that events conspired for us to just miss each other when we both recently happened to be in Orlando," at the time of the screening Foxman surreptitiously attended, and added that "I do not take your concerns lightly."
The Times was unable to reach Foxman for his comments about the letter but noted that earlier Foxman had said he hoped Gibson would tell people about the film: "I did this film because I believe I was inspired by the Holy Ghost. I believe that Jesus suffered for all mankind. Some people want to put the blame for his death on the Jews. Don't do that."
Gibson has repeatedly said that the film blames all of humanity for Christ's passion and death. He has also denied that the film is anti-Semitic.
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004
Theater Chain Bans Baptists' Ad
If you've been so unfortunate as to go the movies recently, you've been bombarded by annoying ads for everything from dog food to allergy drugs. But religious advertising is a no-no for some of the same companies that cash in on such swill as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Order."
AMC Theatres has rejected an ad from Baptist General Convention of Texas, timed to coincide with the opening of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" on Feb. 25.
"Like many evangelical Christian groups throughout the nation, the 2 million-member Baptist convention hopes to take advantage of the publicity generated by Gibson's R-rated epic about the last hours of Jesus," the Associated Press reported today.
Rick King, spokesman for AMC Entertainment Inc., said, "Screen advertising is a pretty sensitive area, and we have a pretty tight set of guidelines for what we will place on our screens and what we won't."
Those "guidelines" obviously don't apply to the foulmouthed shoot-'em-ups from La-La Land.
Becky Bridges, communications director for the association of 5,700 churches, said the spot was designed to "spark some interest and questions on the part of younger viewers about the story of Christianity."
The ad opens with a young man asking: "You want to see the most scandalous story ever?"
Some of Tinseltown's favorite words then flash: "Betrayal. Sin. Adultery. Greed. Envy. Weakness. Poverty. Torture. Murder."
"Redemption," the actor says.
The ad ends with the message "Now playing at a Baptist church near you" above a logo for Baptist General Convention of Texas.
No Guilt, No Jesus, but 'Too Christian'
AMC has been "very vague about why" it rejected the ad, Bridges said, with officials describing it as "too dark" and "too Christian."
"We followed all their regulations: not using Jesus, Bible or any other overt God talk," she said. "We do not use religious symbols or icons. We do not attempt to use guilt or other things that might appear to be judgmental or proselytizing.
"In my opinion, it is a good teaser which is edgy enough that audiences will find it intriguing, but not offensive," she said.
Regal Entertainment Group, which includes United Artists theaters, has accepted the ad.
So why is AMC balking? "In general terms, we don't allow any kind of negativity," King said.
Although Hollywood loves to crank out movies about murder and torture and cinemas love to show them, Bridges said AMC refused to accept a dumbed-down version that excluded references to "murder" and "torture."
Perhaps the Baptists will have better luck running the ad during next year's Super Bowl.
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004
Preachers Think Gibson's 'Passion' Will Convert Hundreds of Thousands
Mel Gibson is promoting "The Passion of the Christ" in a way most Tinseltown types wouldn't dare: by going to church.
Fed up with the biased establishment media and a hate campaign launched largely by people who haven't even seen his movie, Gibson is taking the picture to the people.
"Pastors are urging parishioners to turn out for the film," USA Today reported today.
Ministers in Texas, California, Kansas and other states have rented theaters to show the movie, which opens Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.
"This will be the catalyst for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of people," said the Rev. Jerry Johnston, pastor of First Family Church in Kansas City, Kan. "It's an unparalleled opportunity for evangelicals to help people who have not yet been born again."
The movie will be screened for thousands of evangelists at the National Religious Broadcasters' convention Feb. 13-20 in Charlotte, N.C.
The movie has been the top seller on the Fandango online ticket service.
"I've never seen this much excitement in the Christian community for a movie," NRB president Frank Wright told USA Today. "Hollywood is finally starting to see the benefit of making movies with strong Christian, spiritual themes."
Well, at least someone in Hollywood is.
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004
Gibson Snips Controversial Scene From 'The Passion'
Mel Gibson is cutting a controversial scene from "The Passion of the Christ," the New York Times quoted a "close associate" as saying today.
The offending clip: The Jewish high priest Caiaphas declares, "His blood be on us and on our children."
"It didn't work in the focus screenings. Maybe it was thought to be too hurtful, or taken not in the way it was intended. It has been used terribly over the years," the source is quoted as saying.
"Jewish leaders had warned that the passage from Matthew 27:25 was the historic source for many of the charges of deicide and Jews' collective guilt in the death of Jesus," the Times said.
Foxman Spurns Gibson's Appeal
The paper, one of the ringleaders in the campaign against the movie, also listed the response of ADL director Abraham Foxman's to Gibson's recent appeal. The actor-director had written: "I hope and I pray that you will join me in setting an example for all of our brethren; that the truest path to follow, the only path, is that of respect and, most importantly, that of love for each other despite our differences."
Foxman replied Monday that "your words do not mitigate our concerns about the potential consequences of your film — to fuel and legitimize anti-Semitism."
Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004 11:20 a.m. EST
Mel Gibson's Holocaust Comments Spark Controversy
Mel Gibson can't seem to win - at least, if you are one of his critics.
The latest brouhaha involving Gibson and some critics in the Jewish community was ignited when details of his interview with Peggy Noonan for the March edition of Reader's Digest were made public.
According to the New York Times, Gibson's remarks to Noonan published in the March issue of Reader's Digest "raised hackles among Jewish leaders."
What were Gibson's controversial remarks? The actor went on record to contradict his father's claims that the Holocaust did not take place.
What angered his critics? Gibson, while acknowledging the horrors of the Holocaust, discussed the overall horrors of World War II and communist genocide in the Ukraine.
The Times reported Gibson's decision to make changes in his film "The Passion of the Christ," asreported on NewMax.com Tuesday. Gibson has removed the scene of Jewish high priest Caiaphas saying, of Jesus' death, "His blood be on us and on our children."
But Gibson's decision to cut the scene, followed by an olive branch letter to the ADL and his latest comments to Noonan, have done little to appease his critics.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, has accused Gibson of "insensitivity when he compared Jewish suffering in the Holocaust to that of millions of others who died in the war."
Among other thingsGibson discussed in his interview with Noonan, he told her that "he loved his father," according to the Times. Noonan persisted, telling Gibson: "You're going to have to go on record. The Holocaust happened, right?"
Gibson made clear his position: "I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened.
"War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century 20 million people died in the Soviet Union."
Gibson had previously denied that his father was a Holocaust denier, "insisting that his father had merely questioned the fact that as many as 6 million Jews had perished in the Holocaust.
But Gibson's summation of the deaths of millions of victims of World War II and Communism angered Rabbi Hier, who wrote Gibson: "We are not engaging in competitive martyrdom, but in historical truth. To describe Jewish suffering during the Holocaust as 'some of them were Jews in concentration camps' is an afterthought that feeds right into the hands of Holocaust deniers and revisionists."
Not so, said Gibson's spokesman, Alan Nierob, who told the Times that Gibson's remarks to Noonan were in no way aimed at further inflaming Jewish leaders.
"There's no doubt in my mind that not only does he know the Holocaust and acknowledge it, he has shed tears over it, with me," he told the Times.
But Rabbi Hier insisted that Gibson missed a chance to reduce the tension with Jewish groups.
"I think he was lobbed an easy question. He could've used the occasion to take us on a different road. Instead, he marginalized the Holocaust, he diluted its significance, and it's a lie," he said. "Either he is very ignorant of sensitivities in Jewish communities of riling survivors, those who have lost loved ones, or he is doing it deliberately."
The Times wrote that ADL head Abe Foxman also protested Gibson's remark on the Holocaust.
"At the very least it was ignorant, at the very most it's insensitive," Foxman said. "And you know what? He doesn't get that either. He doesn't begin to understand the difference between dying in a famine and people being cremated solely for what they are."
Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004
ADL's Foxman: Gibson Fears Jews Will Kill Him
Mel Gibson can't appease his critics no matter what he does, even when hedeletes a controversial scene from "The Passion of the Christ."
"I guess we welcome any change that will make the film more sensitive," Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman is quoted as saying in the Palm Beach Post today.
Foxman said Gibson relented out of fear. "He was quoted as saying [in the New Yorker] that Jews would find out where he lives and kill him."
Does he think the scene will remain out of the final version?
"This has been like a yo-yo. He takes it out. He puts it back in," Foxman complained
Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004
Churches Make 'Stunning' Show of Support for Gibson's 'Passion'
Protestant and Catholic churches nationwide have stepped up an unprecedented effort to promote and benefit from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
"Churches are reserving entire theaters for opening day. A national evangelical organization is helping sell tickets from its Web site. Pastors are planning sermons timed to the movie's Ash Wednesday release," the Associated Press reported today.
'Best Evangelization Opportunity
Since the Death of Jesus'
"It's the best evangelization opportunity we've had since the actual death of Jesus," Lisa Wheeler, associate editor of Catholic Exchange, a Web portal dedicated to Internet evangelism, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"This is a window of opportunity we have. Here's a guy who's putting his money into a movie that has everything to do with what we do," said pastor Cory Engel of Harvest Springs Community Church in Great Falls, Mont.
"Churches used to communicate by having a little lecture time on Sunday morning. People don't interact that way anymore. Here's a chance for us to use a modern-day technique to communicate the truth of the Bible," the Rev. Engel said.
Arch Bonnema, the insurance executive and Southern Baptist from Plano, Texas, who spent $42,000 to reserve all 20 screens of a cineplex for Ash Wednesday after seeing the movie weeks ago, told AP: "As a Christian, you hear the term 'Jesus sacrificed his life for us.' We say it so many times that it's routine. I walked out of the theater and thought, 'This is incredible.' I thought, 'Man, this really puts it in perspective.'"
In the Atlanta area, when St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church and St. Brigid Catholic Church reserved 1,500 seats for two showings Feb. 23, they were told that 40 other churches had competed for the same time slot. The Rev. Frank McNamee, pastor of St. Peter Chanel, told the Journal-Constitution: "Our tickets just went like that. It was unbelievable."
'They Attack Millions'
Anattempt by foes to "mute" Gibson's movie has backfired and only increased interest. "When they attack him, they attack millions of people in middle America," said Jennifer Giroux, a Cincinnati nurse and Roman Catholic who created seethepassion.com.
"They're going to bus them to theaters. They will give assignments in many churches: Go to the movie, we're going to talk about it," said Josh Baran, a New York public relations executive who promoted another controversial movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ."
"I think it's going to be one of the big movies of the year," Baran said.
From 'Dismal' to 'Stunning'
AP reported, "The groundswell is stunning considering the once-dismal expectations for the film, which is in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic with English subtitles and is rated R for violence."
Outreach Ministry Inc. says it sent DVDs with a trailer for the movie to "most churches in the United States."
"National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 50 denominations with 43,000 congregations, has posted a link on its Web site for buying tickets," AP reported.
Christian Booksellers Association has asked its 2,500 U.S. retailers to consider selling tickets and posting displays.
"Religious broadcasters and publishers have put discussion of the movie in heavy rotation on television, in magazines and on Web sites. Leaders from the Rev. Billy Graham to movie reviewer Michael Medved have given 'The Passion' two thumbs up," the Atlanta paper reported.
Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, replaced his company's hood-sized logo with an ad for "The Passion" on NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte's Chevrolet. The car will carry the ad during the Daytona 500 race Feb. 15.
"It's probably the highest demand that we have seen for group sales this early," said Dick Westerling of Regal Entertainment Group, which owns 555 theaters. Callers trying to place orders on Regal's toll-free number have been put on hold for up to 10 minutes.
Friday, Feb. 6, 2004
Gibson Won't Say if He Cut Controversial Scene
The New YorkTimes said Mel Gibson removed a controversial scene from "The Passion of the Christ." ADL director Abraham Foxman expressed skepticism. Gibson isn't talking.
According to Reuters, he has kept to himself what, if anything, he plans to do with the scene in which the Jewish high priest says Jesus' "blood be upon us and our children."
"It would be irresponsible of me to talk about a work in progress," Gibson spokesman Alan Nierob told Reuters.
He said that the scene was absent from an early cut he saw but that the version screened last month in Florida for 4,500 evangelical Christian pastors included the scene.
And what is the scene based on? Matthew 27:25. According to some Jewish leaders, this passage was often highlighted in the Passion plays performed in the Middle Ages, which they say helped ignite centuries of anti-Semitism.
Friday, Feb. 6, 2004
Australian Jews Support Gibson's Movie
Unlike some of their American co-religionists, Australia's Jewish community has given a thumbs-up to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
According to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the film is unlikely to incite hostility against Jews.
"In Christian teaching, Jesus died because of human sin, and it would be quite tragic if a film about Jesus' death resulted in a human sin of anti-Semitism," Jeremy Jones, president of the council, told Australia's Herald Sun.
Although some Jewish leaders warn that the film could spark anti-Semitism, since it portrays the Jewish leadership as partly responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, the Herald Sun reports that other religious groups say the movie follows closely the literal interpretation of the Gospel. Jones agreed.
"We think it would be very unlikely that there would be hostility because of one person's artistic rendering of a Bible story, which is what this is," he said. "I don't think Mel Gibson is claiming this is anything other than one person's artistic rendering of how he reads a story important to his religious faith."
Adding his voice to those religious leaders praising the film was Sydney Archbishop George Pell, who has seen the film. "It is not anti-Semitic. I will be writing about the film to explain my enthusiasm. It is a beautiful production, a work of faith, truly based on the Gospels."
(Zenit.org).- A priest who oversaw World Youth Day 2002 and its Way of the Cross through the streets of Toronto says he was overwhelmed by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, head of Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation and the first national Catholic television Network in Canada, was invited to view Gibson's movie late last year.
Father Rosica is a trained Scripture scholar and represented the Canadian bishops' conference for nearly 10 years on the National Christian-Jewish Consultation. He shared his views about "The Passion" with ZENIT.
Q: You have lived, studied and taught in the Holy Land at the École Biblique and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. You headed up World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, which had as its centerpiece the historic Way of the Cross through the center of a modern city. You certainly did not watch Gibson's movie as an outsider. What do you think of it?
Father Rosica: My first reaction was overwhelming. Having followed the extensive debate about the movie for the past year, I was interested in seeing it, but never expected the invitation to be so personal.
One of my principal colleagues at Salt & Light and I were invited by the sound production company of the film to a private showing. I was very surprised to learn that the soundtrack is being produced for the movie by a sound company located several blocks from our Salt & Light Television headquarters in downtown Toronto.
I rarely leave a theater or a film screening with a strong desire to pray and be silent. That is what I felt this morning as I returned to our offices. "The Passion" is a deeply moving presentation of the final hours of Jesus' life on earth. It is by no means a film for children.
I recommend that all those in pastoral ministry, teachers and students of Scripture, and adult Christians view this film at some point. If Gibson's desire was to allow people to draw closer to Christ through this film, he has accomplished his goal.
If Gibson wished people to experience a conversion of heart to the nonviolent message of the cross, he has accomplished that as well.
Q: What stood out for you in the movie?
Father Rosica: The film has been produced with stunning cinematography, excellent acting, fidelity to the Scriptures, attentiveness to the theological meaning of the passion and death of Christ, and extraordinary artistic and religious sensitivity.
The powerful play of light and darkness across Pilate's tortured face is far more revealing than any of the words uttered. It is as though Caravaggio himself served as the artistic and lighting director of this film.
Every single scene is richly created in order to invite the viewer deeper and deeper into the mystery. I really feel that this movie is a masterpiece of religious art of the most powerful genre. As the movie progresses, those who were simply bystanders are drawn into the heart of the story.
Among many extraordinary details, I found Gibson's use of flashback masterful. As a teacher of the Passion narratives, I am always struck by the poignant scenes of the trial, and Peter's role in these Gospel accounts.
In this movie, the haunting flashback to Christ and Peter produces a special effect. The camera captures the face of Christ in profile, while Peter gazes upon us. Christ's excruciating suffering is punctuated by flashbacks to his washing the feet of his apostles in loving service. There are so many subtle ways in which the bystanders in this movie become the protagonists in an instant.
One of my great mentors and professors was the late Father Raymond Brown, S.S., who taught me the "Death of the Messiah" at the Biblicum in Rome. Brown demonstrated that, while there are some differences among the Passion accounts, they are in substantial agreement overall.
It is important to remember that Mel Gibson's film is not a documentary but a work of creative imagination. He incorporates elements from the four Passion narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but remains faithful to the fundamental structure common to all four Gospel accounts.
Gibson has done nothing to remove the brutality from the Passion story. In fact he has no intention to sugarcoat the Passion story with pietism or a false spirituality. The viewer is forced to look at the raw facts and events, and witness the suffering of a just man.
The more brutal the scenes become, the more powerful are the flashback moments of Jesus teaching on the Mount of the Beatitudes, Jesus identifying himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus offering his life in the bread and wine of the last supper.
One scene, in particular, was very moving. As Jesus falls on the Way of the Cross, there is a flashback to his falling on a Jerusalem street as a child, and his mother running out of the house to pick him up. The interplay of Mary and Jesus in this film is moving, and reaches its apex in the scene of the Pietà.
The Mother of the Lord is inviting each of us to share her grief and behold her Son. It is what we tried to do on the Way of the Cross in the heart of the city during World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. This scene was an incredibly powerful moment for us as well. In fact, those who discouraged us from such a public presentation of the Stations of Cross during World Youth Day 2002 were not from outside the Church!
After that magnificent presentation on Toronto's University Avenue in July, 2002, among the thousands of letters and messages we received were those from people of other faiths who simply said: "If only we could do something like this for our own young people and teach them about the core of our faith."
Q: To what do you attribute all the opposition to Gibson's film?
Father Rosica: Ignorance, an obsession with being politically correct, a poor understanding of true interfaith relations, and an unwillingness to come to grips with the cold facts and ambiguous nature of Jesus' trial and execution.
I must also admit that Christians and Jews who fail to deal with the Scriptures in a mature way, and simply promote a false irenicism and ignorance of history, do not help to build bridges and repair the real damage of anti-Semitism which is alive once again in the world.
The old adage that "those who don't know speak, and those who know don't speak" can certainly be applied to all the ink spilled over this film. I have heard heated debates among people who have no idea what the film is about.
Q: As one who has been deeply involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue for many years, do you think that the film is anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish?
Father Rosica: No, it is not at all anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish. The film neither exaggerates nor downplays the role of Jewish authorities and legal proceedings in the condemnation of Jesus.
Without a doubt the figure of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest is a villain. But it is very important to realize that Caiaphas in the Scriptures represented the regime of the time and not the Jewish people.
The film should serve as a springboard into deepening our knowledge of the Scriptures, our love of Jesus Christ, our understanding of the historic reconciliation of Christians and Jews, especially since Vatican II and under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and an analysis of the true causes of anti-Semitism, and its reappearance in the world today.
It think it is very unfortunate that many voices within the Church, not to speak of those from outside the Church, have already condemned the film before even seeing it on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. If the movie does anything, it compels even the most distant and dispassionate viewer to deepen his or her understanding of the story of the Jesus' passion and death.
Jews and Romans of that time were involved in the condemnation, trial and execution of Jesus. That is a fact of history. Anyone who tries to rewrite history or rewrite the Gospel stories of Jesus' suffering and death is unfaithful to history and very dishonest in applying lessons of the past to contemporary situations.
Isn't the real issue arising from this film that many political and even religious authorities throughout history have persecuted individuals with revolutionary ideas?
The Gospel passion narratives recount how the sins of all these people at the time of Jesus conspired to bring about the passion and death of Christ, and thereby suggest the fundamental truth that we are all to blame. Their sins and our sins bring Christ to the cross, and he bears them willingly.
And we must learn from what happened to Jesus and ask ourselves not only about the identity of those who tried, condemned and killed him long ago, but also what killed Jesus -- and what vicious circles of violence, brutality and hatred continue to crucify him today in his brothers and sisters of the human family.
I read somewhere that Maia Morgenstern, the Jewish actress who masterfully plays the part of Mary, said that "The Passion" opposes oppression and violence. "It is about letting people speak openly about what they think and believe. It denounces the madness of violence and cruelty, which if unchecked can spread like a disease."
Q: What were your sentiments as you left the screening room of "The Passion"? You saw it on the eve of Christmas ...
Father Rosica: At the end of such a provocative movie, and on the eve of the birth of the Prince of Peace, I am left with some questions.
In Gibson's "Passion," the "great high priest" is Jesus, the Child of Bethlehem who becomes the "Ecce Homo" of Jerusalem, not at all one distant from us and our condition, but one who sympathizes with us and suffers with us, for he has experienced our weakness and pain, even our temptations.
I must ask myself if am I a priestly person like he was? Do I live for others and spend my life for others? Is the world any less violent, hostile and brutal, and any more patient, kind and just, because of me? Do I stand on the side of truth? Or am I afraid to reveal my faith in Jesus and my fidelity to the Gospel?
"The Passion" compels me to reflect on the cost of discipleship.
Saturday, Feb. 7, 2004 09:39 p.m. EST
L.A. Times: 'Huge' Turnout Expected for Gibson Film
Mel Gibson, who spent as much as $30 million of his own money making a film he was warned would be a box office disaster, may recoup his entire investment within five days of its opening on Feb. 25.
According to the Los Angeles Times, no booster of Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ," just three weeks before its release the film "has the industry buzzing – not just because of its controversial portrayal of Jesus' last hours – but because it seems to be generating the kind of interest among moviegoers that could deliver $25 million to $30 million in its first five days."
Considering that distributor Newmarket Films has yet to run either conventional print or television ads in advance of the film's opening, the tracking numbers which show that on Friday the ticket-selling group Fandango's advance sales for the film comprised 43 percent of its total sales this week are, the Times wrote, "remarkable for an R-rated religious-themed movie employing unconventional marketing techniques."
The Times credited the huge interest in the film with coming from what it called "an unusual marketing campaign in which Gibson has reached out to sympathetic Christian evangelical churches which included a so-called satellite-broadcast "training event" that the newspaper reported would be staged in about 400 churches nationwide Sunday providing a 'boot camp of information' about outreach opportunities, organizers told the Times.
Gibson himself was expected to participate in a live Q & A from Azusa Pacific University, part of a yearlong collaboration between his Icon Entertainment and church groups to create grassroots support for the film, which opens on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.
Outreach Ministry Inc., in Vista, Calif., sent out DVDs with the movie's trailer to "most churches in the United States," and the Christian Booksellers Association is asking 2,500 retailers to consider selling tickets and posting displays about "Passion" in their stores.
"Everything about this movie has had an agenda – on the part of those who support it and those who don't," one marketing executive from a studio not affiliated with the project told the Times. "That creates a very combustible mix that could reap significant box office results."
AMC Entertainment Inc. will be exhibiting "Passion" in 150 theaters nationwide, while the Regal chain has booked it in 420 of its 550 locations. Church groups have reserved entire auditoriums for advance screenings two days before the release, Dick Westerling, Regal's senior vice president of marketing, told the Times.
"We expect a huge opening," he said. "The volume of group sales is unlike any we've experienced. Advance sales are also going well, though not at the level for other event films such as 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'Harry Potter.'"
"Passion" Web sites, both rogue and officially sanctioned, received about 8 million hits Thursday.
According to the "tracking" survey, 15 percent of those polled said "Passion" was their "first choice" among the movies listed, edging out "Barbershop 2" and "Miracle" by 2 or 3 percentage points. In terms of "definite interest," it fared even better, scoring 49 percent to "Miracle's" 46 percent and "Barbershop 2's" 37 percent. Still, when it came to overall "awareness," the Newmarket release took a backseat to "Barbershop 2."
"The study is only a snapshot, giving executives a feel for where they are now and how to adjust their marketing campaigns," Newmarket president Bob Berney told the Times. "Still, it shows that there's a hungry audience out there. Far from having second thoughts, exhibitors are fighting over it. Advance sales are in the several millions [of dollars]. Still, we're staying with our plan to release it in 2,000 theaters, concentrated a bit more in the Bible Belt. I'm told it's the widest release for a subtitled film – certainly for one in Aramaic and Latin."
"The film could tap into a group of people, in small towns or wherever, who make it their one moviegoing experience of the year," an analyst, who declined to be identified by name, told the Times. "If so, the research could be the tip of the iceberg. Still, questions need to be answered. Did people say 'The Passion' was their first choice because they felt they should? Has interest already peaked or will they follow through?"
Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004 04:58 p.m. EST
Mel Gibson: My Sinfulness Led to 'Passion'
Mel Gibson says he was inspired to make his controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" after finding that he needed to take a good look at himself and did not like what he saw when he did.
"You get to a place where, you know, you have to re-evaluate your insides and like, change, because, you know, I'm a monster. I mean I can be," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "It's like, you know, I've been offered every kind of excess that money and fame brings and it's not good enough."
Gibson made his remarks during a 40-minute live Q&A before 3,800 invited guests at the evangelical Azusa Pacific University on Saturday.
As he has from the very beginning of the controversy, Gibson emphatically denied that the film, which depicts in exceedingly graphic scenes the suffering of Jesus during the last 12 hours of his life, is anti-Semitic.
The Times reported that when Gibson was asked whether the film will foster anti-Semitism, he said "I'm not anti-Semitic. My Gospels are not anti-Semitic. ... I've shown it to many Jews and they're like, it's not anti-Semitic. It's interesting that the people who say it's anti-Semitic say that before they saw the film, and they said the same thing after they saw the film."
One critic of the heavy marketing of the film, Kenneth L. Waters Sr., assistant professor of the New Testament at Azusa Pacific University, said that while he thinks the marketing aspect is a little bit too heavy-handed, personally, he called the film "gripping and very captivating ... and pretty much held the line as far as the biblical story was concerned." He told the Times he did not think the film was anti-Semitic.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, has seen the film twice and repeated his widely reported charge that the movie is "the work of Mel Gibson" and not a story from the New Testament, a criticism denied by scores of biblical experts who have seen it and testified that it faithfully follows the Gospels.
"As someone who has dealt with the issue of anti-Semitism professionally since 1977, I know about what it is more than Mel Gibson," Hier said. "Every Jew who appears in this film, except for the disciples of Christ, are portrayed cruelly and portrayed as a people with an almost sinister look in their eyes. ... Jews who see this film, I believe, will be overwhelmingly horrified."
Gibson supporters, however, stress the fact that many of those who have seen the film are themselves Jewish, and deny they saw anything anti-Semitic about it.
Speaking of the film's R-rating, Gibson said it is justified given that the scenes of the crucifixion are brutal and relentless. "Part of what I was endeavoring to do was to kind of push it to the edge a little bit," he said. When it was suggested that he could have toned the film down, Gibson responded, "Dude, I did tone it down."
The film premiers in over 2,000 theaters on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. Experts say it could recover the $30 million Gibson spent making it in as little as five days.
Monday, Feb. 9, 2004 9:25 p.m. EST
NewsMax's Hirsen Defends 'Passion'
On Fox News Channel's Saturday broadcast of "The Big Story with Rita Cosby," Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Weisenthal Center, had this to say about Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."
"[Gibson's] portrayal of Jews, all Jews, the high priests, the many hundreds of Jews who appear in the film, is historically inaccurate. It's a complete discretionary decision by Mel Gibson to cast them in this manner."
Rabbi Hier continued:
"It is not in the New Testament. There isn't a single verse in the New Testament that tells us how many Jews were gathered, but in his film every Jew looks sinister. Negative characters, Rasputin-like figures and the Romans look great [but] the Jews do not have a single word of intelligence to say in the entire two hours.
"Except of course, those disciples of Jesus," Rabbi Hier added. "The Jews are portrayed horribly and it's really an insult to the Jewish community."
"I disagree strongly. And, of course, so do a lot of prominent Jewish voices, like Rabbi Lapin, Michael Medved, David Klinghoffer and others. This is an important moment in our culture.
"This film follows the New Testament. Cardinal Hoyos has said so. Billy Graham has said so. James Dobson has said so. And this is a story that is religiously significant for hundreds of millions of people and ought to be respected."
"Christians who see this film will watch noble Jewish characters engaged in the Passover. And Jewish moviegoers will develop an understanding of the significance of the story of the death and resurrection of Christ.
"This is a time for connection, not division. This is a time for lifting up, not putting down. And it's a time for mutual respect, Rita. Isn't that what real tolerance is all about?"
This was the second meeting between Hirsen and Rabbi Hier, and it is certain that there will be more to come as "The Passion of the Christ" debate continues to swirl.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004 9:38 a.m. EST
NewsMax’s Hirsen Defends 'Passion' on Fox
On Fox News' Rita Cosby show on Saturday, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Weisenthal Center, had this to say about Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."
"... his [Gibson's] portrayal of Jews, all Jews, the high priests, the many hundreds of Jews who appear in the film, is historically inaccurate. It's a complete discretionary decision by Mel Gibson to cast them in this manner. It is not in the New Testament. There isn't a single verse in the New Testament that tells us how many Jews were gathered, but in his film every Jew looks sinister, negative characters, Rasputin-like figures and the Romans look great ... the Jews do not have a single word of intelligence to say in the entire two hours. Except of course, those disciples of Jesus. The Jews are portrayed horribly and it's really an insult to the Jewish community."
Hirsen responded: "... I disagree strongly. And, of course, so do a lot of prominent Jewish voices like Rabbi Lapin, Michael Medved, David Klinghoffer and others. This is an important moment in our culture. This film follows the New Testament, Cardinal Hoyos has said so, Billy Graham has said so, James Dobson has said so. And this is a story that is religiously significant for hundreds of millions of people and ought to be respected. Christians who see this film will watch noble Jewish characters engaged in the Passover. And Jewish moviegoers will develop an understanding of the significance of the story of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is a time for connection not division. This is a time for lifting up, not putting down. And it's a time for mutual respect, Rita. Isn't that what real tolerance is all about?"
This was the second meeting between Hirsen and Rabbi Hier, and it is certain that there will be more to come as "The Passion of the Christ" debate continues to swirl.
Friday, Feb. 13, 2004 10:15 a.m. EST
'Passion' Pirates Prosecuted
The FBI has caught up with the three men who allegedly swiped a "rough-cut version" of Mel Gibson's soon-to-be-released film, "The Passion of the Christ," and made bootleg copies, plus a fourth man, according to Reuters, who got his films from veteran Hollywood character actor Carmine Caridi.
The smuggled celluloid mysteriously found its way to the New York Post, and eventually the Internet, prompting a months-long probe resulting in criminal charges.
"There is a compelling national interest in pursuing these crimes vigorously," said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ralph Boelter.
The 70-year-old Caridi will not be prosecuted, but his friend Russell William Sprague, 51, was indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiracy and copyright infringement charges.
According to the L.A. Times, the complaint accuses the culprits – Richard Young, 42; Victor Ochoa, 31, and Frank Pelayo Jr., 23, all of whom were employees of Los Angeles post-production company Lightning Dubbs, which renamed itself Lightning Media – only of making illegal copies of "The Passion" and "Kill Bill: Vol.1," not of profiteering or posting the films to the Internet.
Lightning Media President Cheryl Brady said, "These people worked side by side with friends who will now be damaged because of what they have done." She told Forbes she tracked them down with the FBI, and fired them immediately.
With controversy swirling around the film, which depicts the final hours of the life of Jesus Christ, the Post treated the besieged Gibson kindly. But not before taking the liberty of having his film screened by a multi-religious panel and reporting their reactions in a December edition of the paper – nearly three months before the film's release.
The feds are continuing a recently enforced crackdown on copyright infringement, including stealing and illegal copying and recording of movies at previews and special screenings, and broadening investigation of other production operations.
Friday, Feb. 13, 2004 10:38 a.m. EST
NASCAR No. 18 Racing for 'The Passion'
The No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, driven by Bobby Labonte and owned by Joe Gibbs Racing, will sport a special paint scheme featuring Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, broadcast on NBC at 1:30 p.m. EST.
Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller told Fox News that they have advertised movies on their cars before, and that they will get a "double hit" with the success of the movie and promoting Jesus, whom he calls "the vehicle for our salvation."
Miller said the movie is powerful and misunderstood, and that it "portrays the most important 12 hours in history."
He added that his team is "privileged to be a part of its promotion to the world. Besides that, it may well be the number one box office attraction of the year. I certainly hope so!"
In a press release, Gibson said: "This film dramatically portrays an event that has affected all of our lives – regardless of one's religious affiliation, or none. Like Norm, I happen to believe this story to be true."
Gibson says "The Passion" is intended to inspire, not to offend.
"I know Norm Miller is a big supporter of the film, so it's very exciting for him to have the 'Passion' paint scheme on the Interstate Batteries car," driver Labonte said. "Jim Caviezel [who portrays Christ in the movie] will be in our pit on race day, so hopefully we can bring him a win in the Daytona 500."
Caviezel, himself a race fan, drove the 50th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car at the beginning of the 86th Indianapolis 500 race.
Friday, Feb. 13, 2004 11:38 a.m. EST
'Passion' Won't Be in All Theaters
Despite the fact that Mel Gibson's controversial film is scheduled to open in over 2,000 theaters on Feb. 25, if you live in certain areas of the nation you may have trouble finding one of them nearby.
So opines Fox News entertainment editor Roger Friedman, who explains that anybody who lives on the west side of Manhattan, for example, or in most of western Long Island, or Beverly Hills and wants to see "The Passion of the Christ," in a nearby movie house will be out of luck.
When the film opens on Ash Wednesday, Friedman reports that "it will be in very select theatres only."
In Manhattan, for example the film will be seen only in a handful of out-of-the-way-theaters: "one in Times Square, two in fringe areas of the East Side, one second-run theatre at Broadway and 100th St. and one in Harlem. There will be one screen below 34th St, and none from 42nd St. to 96th St. on the West Side." This, he writes, excludes such prestige theaters as the Ziegfeld, the Paris, the Beekman and Sony Lincoln Square.
In suburban Nassau County, Long Island, on either the south or north shore, and in affluent Westchester County, he says, New York theater-goers will also be hard-pressed to find the film.
According to Friedman , Gibson's distributors have targeted black neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods and cites as an example that "all the Magic Johnson theatres in the country will show the movie, as will multiplexes in urban centers."
In Chicago, he writes, the film will be shown in only two theaters, so Chicagoans will have to go to the suburbs to see "The Passion of the Christ." Ditto for "the wealthier and trendier parts of Los Angeles such as Beverly Hills and Century City. Those who are curious will have to seek their "Passion" in odd places, in out-of-the-way cineplexes. You won't be able to see it at the Beverly Center, for example. But four theatres in economically less desirable San Jose, California will show the film."
Friedman concludes that the strategy "seems designed to keep the film out of neighborhoods that are considered Jewish, upscale, or liberal, and he cites as an example "typically Jewish areas like Boca Raton," which he says will show it in one theater, "if at all."
Other areas of the nation, however, will be saturated. Friedman reported that Tennessee is targeted for the film with eight locations in Memphis and four each in Nashville and Knoxville. The number of theaters in many more states like Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Oklahoma is high, especially in rural areas. In Florida, for example, Jacksonville and Tampa – more northern and central cities – will have "Passion" in four or more theaters.
In Miami, where there's a huge Catholic-Cuban population, the film will play in 10 theaters. and in Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas of Texas, there are the same number of theaters or more. Texas, in fact, will offer the most opportunities in the country to see the film.
Friedman guesses that the film's distributor, Newmarket Films, chose a pattern that "concentrates heavily on the South and the Midwest, focusing on the Bible Belt and locations where [the film] will meet with the least resistance. West Virginia will have about three times as many theatres as Rhode Island, for example. Vermonters have three theatres while their more conservative next-door neighbors in New Hampshire, a state equal in size, will have twelve."
In Friedman's view, Mel Gibson "has consciously created a divisive atmosphere for the presentation of his film. For example, he has screened the movie widely for groups on the religious right while avoiding all mainstream groups, as well as film critics for fear of poor advance word."
That "fear" of course conflicts with the rave reviews expressed by the overwhelming majority of those who have seen the film and come away awed by its power and extraordinary cinematic excellence.
Newsweek Peddling Gibson Foes' Revisionist Claims
Newsweek magazine’s cover story about Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ," carries the byline of one Jon Meachem, but anybody the least bit familiar with the recent statements and articles by Boston college’s Paula Fredericksen, Sr. Mary Boys and the other dissident members of an ad-hoc committee of the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s Conference interfaith group will immediately recognize where Meachem got his material.
This group of Catholic and Jewish scholars has a very clear agenda – to, in effect, rewrite the Gospels to conform to their opinions of what their study of history reveals about the life and times of Jesus Christ. What has been accepted for 2,000 years as the inspired word of God is, in their view, more myth than fact. To put it bluntly, what Christians have accepted as inerrant, is in the scholars opinion, full of errors.
Here’s what Newsweek had to say.
"Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance."
In other words, the Bible is not the work of apostles guided by the Holy Spirit and therefor incapable of error. It’s simply the work of four fallible human beings with an ax to grind.
"Gibson set out to stick to the Gospels and has made virtually no nod to critical analysis or context."
In other words, Mel Gibson didn’t consult the self-styled "experts" or pay any attention to their "critical analysis."
"The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus' death to attract converts and make their young religion—understood by many Christians to be a faction of Judaism—attractive to as broad an audience as possible."
Matthew Mark, Luke and John, it seems were not evangelists inspired by the Holy Spirit, but merely four hucksters peddling their "young religion."
"We can also see why the writers downplayed the role of the ruling Romans in Jesus' death. The advocates of Christianity—then a new, struggling faith—understandably chose to placate, not antagonize, the powers that were. Why remind the world that the earthly empire which still ran the Mediterranean had executed your hero as a revolutionary?"
The Gospel writers slanted their biblical accounts to curry favor with the Romans who persisted in killing them anyway.
"And many scholars believe that the author of Matthew, which is the only Gospel to include the "His blood be on us" line, was writing after the destruction of the Temple in 70 and inserted the words to help explain why such misery had come upon the people of Jerusalem. According to this argument, blood had already fallen on them and on their children."
Just where did the "scholars" obtain that inside information?
"John's point in putting this line in Jesus' mouth is almost certainly to take a gibe at the Temple elite. But in the dramatic milieu of the movie, it can be taken to mean that the Jews, through Caiaphas, are more responsible for Jesus' death than the Romans are—an implication unsupported by history."
St. John put words in Jesus mouth? St. John, the " beloved apostle" lied ?
"Clear evidence of the political nature of the execution—that Pilate and the high priest were ridding themselves of a "messiah" who might disrupt society, not offer salvation—is the sign Pilate ordered affixed to Jesus' cross. The message is not from the knowing Romans to the evil Jews. It is, rather, a scornful signal to the crowds that this death awaits any man the pilgrims proclaim ‘the king of the Jews."
If that is true, why did the Temple authorities go to Pilate and demand that he change the wording to say that Jesus "claimed" to be King of the Jews. And how do they explain Pilate’s scornful rejection of their demand – " Scripsi, Scripsi" (What I have written I have written). Or did the gospel authors make that up too?
"It was as the church's theology took shape, culminating in the Council of Nicaea in 325, that Jesus became the doctrinal Christ, the Son of God ‘who for us men and our salvation," the council's original creed declared, "descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead.’"
In other words Jesus was not believed to be who he said he was for about 300 years after his death. That would have come as a surprise to the tens of thousands of martyrs who died because of their belief in his divinity.
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Newsweek has learned, is publishing these teachings in book form to coincide with the release of Gibson's movie."
These "teachings" are the teachings of the so-called "scholars" which are at odds with official Catholic doctrine and the teachings of the majority of Protestant and evangelistic biblical scholars.
I have been unable to confirm this or discover if the book is to be the work of the dissident scholars.
USCCB has not returned my call asking under whose auspices the book is to be published after promising to do so. It should be noted that the USCCB has denied that the group speaks for them in any way and is not an official body of the conference.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gibson Explains Violence in 'Christ' Film
LOS ANGELES -- Mel Gibson said the graphic depiction of Christ's crucifixion in his upcoming film "The Passion of the Christ" was meant to make viewers realize the extent of Christ's sacrifice, and he asserted that the film is not anti-Semitic.
"I think it pushes one over the edge so that they see the enormity, the enormity of that sacrifice," he said during an interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC's "Primetime" that airs Monday.
Gibson, who funded, directed and co-wrote the upcoming movie, said he wanted the movie to be shocking and extreme.
"It's very violent and if you don't like it, don't go, you know?" Gibson said in excerpts of the interview provided by ABC. "If you want to leave halfway through, go ahead."
The R-rated movie, set for release Feb. 25, details the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus. Gibson maintains it's a faithful biblical narrative, but some worry that its depiction of the role of some Jews in the death of Christ may lead to an increase in anti-Semitism.
Among them is Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has seen the film twice.
Gibson told Sawyer the film was not anti-Semitic and was instead about "faith, hope, love and forgiveness."
"To be anti-Semitic is a sin," the actor-director said. "It's been condemned by one Papal Council after another. To be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian, and I'm not."
The "Primetime" program also includes an interview with Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman told Sawyer he does not believe Gibson or the film are anti-Semitic but added that the movie "has the potential to fuel anti-Semitism, to reinforce it."