Religious row over Mel's film
By MICHAEL McKENNA in Los Angeles
08 June 2003
The Herald Sun
MEL Gibson has declared war on two of the most powerful
religious groups in America.
The actor has threatened a lawsuit against the US Conference of
Catholic Bishops and the Jewish-run Anti-Defamation League over a report
criticising the depiction of Jews in his controversial new film about the
crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The two bodies want changes to the script.
Gibson co-wrote, directed and funded the $40 million The
Passion, which finished shooting in Rome last month.
The film, starring Monica Bellucci and James Caviezel, is
spoken entirely in Latin and Aramaic and will be released without
subtitles. Gibson has yet to find a distributor for the film, scheduled for
release next year.
Gibson is reportedly a member of a traditionalist Catholic
movement, operating outside the mainstream church, that embraces a 16th
century form of the religion that uses only Latin in mass.
The movement rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council
of 1962-65 that eliminated the belief that Jews were collectively
responsible for the death of Jesus.
Catholic and Jewish scholars said they feared Gibson was going
to use his celebrity status and film to promote his views. Sister Mary Boys, professor
of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, said:
"The Anti-Defamation League and US Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed
the script and we wrote a report that was sent to Mr Gibson's company.
"We have concerns about the role of Jews in the movie and we
were hoping to get some changes. Mr Gibson's company has retaliated by
threatening a lawsuit." Sister Boys declined to detail the exact concerns about the script.
Gibson and Bruce Davey, his partner in Icon Productions, would
not comment. Earlier, Gibson lashed out before a newspaper published the
ultra-conservative views of his father, Hutton, 85. Mr Gibson Sr, a traditionalist Catholic,
was quoted as saying the holocaust never happened and the World Trade Centre
was destroyed by remote control.
Gibson said at the time people were trying to denigrate his
father because he was making the movie, and admitted some Jews might be
offended by the movie, although that was not intended.
"I've never seen a rendering that equals this for reality," he
said. "The versions I've seen (are) more like fairy tales. This actually happened.
But, 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 - anybody who transgresses
has to look at their part or look at their culpability."
Father William Fulco, a Jesuit priest and Los Angeles-based
professor of Mediterranean studies, said he had seen no evidence of
anti-Semitism while working on the script. He translated the script.
The Passion is the first film Gibson has directed since winning
an Academy Award for Braveheart.
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