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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

LABJ FORUM: Passion Play

LABJ FORUM: Passion Play

“Passions,” Mel Gibson’s self-financed $25 million film about the death of Jesus, has religious leaders and others concerned that its tone and graphic depiction of the crucifixion will lead to an increase in anti-Semitism. Fueling the controversy has been Gibson’s tight lid on the script and screenings limited largely to conservative Christian groups. For his part, Gibson says the film is the most accurate depiction of the last days of Christ. So the Business Journal asks:

What do you make of the flap over Mel Gibson’s “Passions?”

Lara Frerking

Director of Development

Boxing Cat Films

Someone of the fame and cinematic status of Mel Gibson is going to get a lot of criticism, more than someone from the religious community for making a film about the life of Christ. You’re going to be attacked by some groups. It’s like abortion everyone has their own opinion, and you have to take into consideration how much passion you have for the project, and what form you want to put it in.

Rabbi Marvin Hier

Dean and Founder

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Mel Gibson has every right to make a film about Jesus, but with the right comes the responsibility. For 20 centuries, Jews have falsely paid the bill for the fall of Christ. Mel Gibson has the right to make this film, but we have the right to be concerned and to comment. We know many Christians will be affected by Christ’s treatment in the film. Crucifixion was not a Jewish method of punishment. It was Roman. But the Jews are still around to be blamed, so he has a social responsibility to prevent that.

Christopher Heard

Assistant Professor of Religion

Pepperdine University

I really can’t say if the film has an anti-Semitic tone without seeing it. Any time Hollywood produces a movie based on the life and death of Jesus, the potential for anti-Semitism is there. From my perspective, the Gospels of the New Testament do portray some bad guys and some of those characters who conspired against Jesus are Jewish. That, however, also has to be balanced with the perspective that Jesus and his followers were also Jewish.

Rabbi Neal Weinberg


Miller Introduction to Judaism Program

University of Judaism

This is all a marketing tool. They want to have buzz. They are showing the film to conservative media critics like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved on KRLA, who are Jewish, and the reason is because they speak in favor of the film. Gibson is probably pleased to see this controversy.

Amanda Susskind

Pacific Southwest Regional Director

Anti-Defamation League

We are concerned about the portrayal of the death of Jesus in the film. Passion Plays have an infamous history of leading to hatred, violence and even death of Jews. If Mel Gibson says this is a work of love and reconciliation, why is he afraid to show it to us?

Cliff Dektar


Program Group on Communications and Public Affairs

Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese

I’ve read the various pieces in newspapers and it is difficult to say, but I think a thing that opens old wounds is not very good these days. People should be positive and we don’t need to put fuel on old fires. In the name of religion, many good deeds and sins are committed, going back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition. But it’s better not to stir things up one way or the other.

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