Magazine article The New American

Crucifying the Passion: Mel Gibson's Yet-to-Be-Released Film about the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ Has Been the Target of Vicious Attacks, but the Smears May Be Backfiring

Magazine article The New American

Crucifying the Passion: Mel Gibson's Yet-to-Be-Released Film about the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ Has Been the Target of Vicious Attacks, but the Smears May Be Backfiring

Article excerpt

The silver screen is awash with violence and mayhem, perversion and debauchery. Major Hollywood studios have no problem with churning out bloody splatterfests like the recently released Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake or Freddy vs. Jason. They revel in edgy television fare such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a special love-kiss to the militant homosexual lobby.

If you are a Hollywood director who wants to make a film that mocks, blasphemes and reviles Jesus Christ, you can be sure that the major studios will line up to bankroll and distribute it, and that critics will acclaim it. If you make a film that viciously portrays Catholic priests and nuns, Protestant ministers, or Christian believers in general as ignorant buffoons, corrupt hypocrites, or intolerant bigots, you can rest assured of media accolades for your penetrating social commentary. Submerge a crucifix in ajar of urine or create a painting of the Virgin Mary out of elephant dung and you will be praised for your artistic brilliance by the self-anointed arbiters of high culture.

So why the incredible hullabaloo over The Passion of Christ (more commonly referred to simply as The Passion), Mel Gibson's forthcoming film of Christ's suffering and death scheduled to be released next Ash Wednesday, February 25? Written, directed, produced and bankrolled by Gibson himself, the independent venture reportedly cost the Hollywood superstar more tan $25 million. Perhaps never before has a movie generated such heated controversy months prior to its release. The attacks on The Passion and Mel Gibson began while the movie was still being shot in Italy this past spring, before anyone had even seen the rough-cut previews that Gibson's Icon Productions later arranged for various religious groups and media representatives.

Those who have seen screenings of The Passion have almost universally praised it as an artistic masterpiece and a profoundly moving spiritual achievement. Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and agnostic viewers alike have showered superlatives on Gibson's production, which lotuses, with intense, graphic realism, on the last 12 hours of Jesus' earthly life: His arrest, trial, torture, suffering and death. Gibson, who has been ruminating on the project for 12 years, has gone to great lengths to achieve historical accuracy, even filming all of the acting dialogue in two dead languages--the Aramaic and Latin used in Palestine of that time period. Jewish screenwriter Alan Sereboff describes it as "one of the most breathtaking, poignant movies of our time." Conservative Jewish commentators Michael Medved, Matt Drudge and David Horowitz described it, respectively, as "remarkable," "magical" and "awesome."

Liberal-left, secular Jewish groups, however, along with their usual allies, have charged that the movie is dangerous. Without having seen the movie, they attacked it as anti-Semitic and launched a preemptive strike to keep it out of theaters.

The film burners have been so vicious and irrational that they have threatened to undermine Christian-Jewish relations and stir up the very anti-Semitism they claim to deplore. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has led the attacks, has proven its willingness over the decades to incite anti-Semitism and then to exploit the situation and profit handsomely from fundraising efforts that, supposedly, will help finance programs to fight anti-Semitism.

Abraham Foxman, nation al director of the ADL, has been the point-man in the anti-Gibson, anti-Passion campaign. "I think he's infected, seriously infected. with some very, very serious anti-Semitic views," Foxman said of the popular film star. during a panel discussion of The Passion at the ADL's 90th annual national meeting in November.

On August 28, Jewish demonstrators gathered outside the Sixth Avenue offices of News Corp., the New York headquarters of the parent corporation of Fox TV and 20th Century Fox Studios, to pressure the company not to distribute Gibson's movie. …

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