Friday, August 15, 2003

MEL GIBSON HAS "SOFTENED" THE PASSION STORY. I think this article (in JewsWeek) is saying that he's made changes in the movie in light of criticism, but it's not entirely clear.

Director Mel Gibson, under heavy fire from Jewish groups for his $25 million movie on the death of Jesus, has "softened the story" and made changes to make The Passion more palatable to critics, according to a spokesman. Scheduled for release next year during Lent, The Passion has some Jewish groups nervous it will resurrect old beliefs that Jews were responsible for the death of the Christian savior.

Paul Lauer, marketing director for Gibson's Icon Productions company, said Gibson has edited the film to show more "sympathetic" Jewish characters who were not calling for Jesus to be crucified. "We believe we have softened the story compared to the way the Gospel has told it," Lauer said in an interview. He pointed to 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."

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.

"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,'" Lauer said.

Jewish groups, however, remain unconvinced. . . .

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