Story by: Jack Foley
THE controversy surrounding Mel Gibsons rapidly approaching
The Passion of The Christ shows no sign of letting up, prompting
the director, himself, and one of the stars to come out and defend
Gibson, himself, admitted, in an interview with Readers
Digest, that he expected some level of turbulence, because
whenever one delves into religion and politics - peoples
deeply held beliefs - youre going to stir things up.
But even he was surprised at the level of it, especially while
filming, and seems annoyed by various loud voices in the
press - people who hadnt seen it - slinging mud.
And Romanian actress, Maia Morgenstern, who plays Mary, has since
spoken out to defend the film from its repeated charge of being
anti-Semitic, predicting that people will primarily see
a work of art.
Morgensterns parents were Holocaust survivors and she has
praised Gibson for his professionalism and kindness throughout
the filming process, insisting that he never imposed his religious
convictions upon anyone, and describing him as both an artist,
and a director.
She added that if the film did have a message, then it was more
about how people can be manipulated by their leaders.
The comments were made as Jewish and Christian groups announced
plans for a lecture campaign on the issue of Christs crucifixion,
after maintaining their belief that the film could incite anti-Semitism.
Some critics continue to complain that the film suggests Jews
were responsible for Christ's death and, in America, both the
Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee have launched
a high-profile campaign against it.
Although they will not be protesting outside cinemas, they feel
it undermines the progress that they have made toward mutual respect
and religious pluralism, according to Rabbi David Elcott, and
plan to stage lectures, interfaith talks and other programmes
aimed at explaining how crucifix re-enactments in medieval times,
which were called Passion Plays, had been used to incite violence
against Jewish communities.
Reverend Franklin Sherman, chairman of the Consultative Panel
on Lutheran-Jewish Relations also asked people not to make judgements
after they had seen the film, stating: "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."
Gibson, however, remains steadfast in his belief that the film
is in no way anti-Semitic and that it is a labour of love, which
has been incubating for 12 years.
He claims to have researched the film thoroughly and insists
that part of his investigation was the reawakening of the
faith I was raised in. He subsequently explored the subject
in books, sermons and theologies and talked to literally
thousands of learned and biblical scholars.
"I didn't make it up, you know," he added in the same
interview, stating that the film is about obsessional love,
which was based on text of the gospel.
"They don't really have a problem with me if they have a
problem with this film. They have a problem with the gospel, because
it adheres pretty well to the gospel," he added.
Gibson even went on to allude to an alleged comment from the
Pope, that it is as it was after he had been granted
a special screening of the movie, even though sources close to
the Pope himself have since denied that the comment was ever made.
Audiences wont have long to judge for themselves, however,
as the film has been scheduled for a UK release on March 26.
In a separate controversy, the New York Times recently reported
that one of the films most controversial scenes - in which
a Jewish high priest declares a blood curse on Jews for the death
of Christ - may be cut.
The newspaper referred to an unnamed close associate
of Gibson, who claimed that he had decided to delete the scene,
particularly as Jewish groups say the passage, which is taken
from the Gospel of Matthew 27: 25, was one of the main causes
of anti-Semitic feeling.
A spokesman for Gibson said he would not comment on the report,
however, feeling it irresponsible to comment on a
work in progress.