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Gibson and co-star defend The Passion of The Christ



Story by: Jack Foley

THE controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s 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 it.

Gibson, himself, admitted, in an interview with Reader’s Digest, that he expected some ‘level of turbulence, because whenever one delves into religion and politics - people’s deeply held beliefs - you’re 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 hadn’t 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’.

Morgenstern’s 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 Christ’s 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 won’t 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 film’s 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.

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