In 2005, just in time for Easter, Mel Gibson released an edited version of his controversial film The Passion of the Christ. A few brutal scenes had been cut and camera angles had been changed, all in an attempt to soften the graphic violence of the original. Gibson said that the new edition of the film would appeal to people who “want to take your Aunt Martha or Uncle Harry” to see it but who would find the first version too intense.
Conservative Christian groups are outraged but not surprised, they say, that last year’s box-office hit The Passion of the Christ didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for best picture or best director.
Paul Rusesabagina, a member of the Hutu majority tribe in Rwanda, is married to a member of the Tutsi, the minority tribe that colonial powers installed as the nation’s rulers in an interference tactic that was common during the 19th century. By 1994, the year in which Terry George sets his film Hotel Rwanda, the Hutu majority was engaged in a genocidal conflict.
While heavy on processed drums, the disc makes for compelling listening. The young women, products of China’s top orchestras, perform with ancient instruments such as the gu zheng (a zither with up to 25 strings), pipa (four-stringed lute) and dizi (bamboo flute).
When people speak loosely of anti-Semitism, do they have in mind a religiously derived separation from Judaism on the part of Christians historically, or a pernicious racialist theory? Twentieth-century political theorist Hannah Arendt argued that these are two distinct theories.
Mel Gibson’sThe Passion of the Christ movie about the death of Jesus earned $17 million over the Easter weekend, making it the eighth-highest grossing film of all time. Gibson’s self-financed blockbuster had earned $354.9 million since it debuted on Feburary 25, Ash Wednesday.
Hollywood insiders were convinced that The Passion of the Christ would be a major flop. Mel Gibson’s detractors predicted he would lose the $25 million he personally invested in the film. But only two weeks after it opened, The Passion had earned $200 million. Apparently Gibson, a Catholic pre–Vatican II traditionalist, has tapped into a Zeitgeist known as the culture war.
In the 1927 silent version of The King of Kings, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Christ is first seen from the point of view of a blind man regaining his sight. It is a masterful touch that adds grandeur to the story. Over the decades, scores of films have been made about Jesus of Nazareth. Many of these productions dripped with Hollywood glitz, while others tackled serious issues of faith.
Along with other folks at the Christian Century, I saw The Passion of the Christ at a special screening hosted by the Chicago branch of the American Jewish Committee, whose offices are in the building next to ours in Chicago.