French theaters won't show 'Passion'

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Maverick74, Feb 29, 2004.

  1. Maverick74


    French theaters won't show 'Passion'

    February 29, 2004


    PARIS -- French cinema chains are refusing to distribute or screen Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" because of fears it will spark a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.

    France is the only European country where there is still no distribution deal for the film, which depicts the last days of Jesus Christ in graphic detail and is accused by critics of stoking anti-Jewish sentiment.

    The film was released in America last week, but French distributors are wary of its impact on audiences and want to gauge its reception elsewhere in Europe, where it is due to open next month.

    "We don't want to be on the side of those who support such anti-Semitism," a veteran film industry figure said. "When we distributed 'It's a Beautiful Life' by [Roberto] Benigni, we were worried about the risk of making a comedy about the Holocaust, but that was different. There's enough anti-Semitic stuff circulating here already without us throwing oil on the fire."

    The debate over the film is highly sensitive in France, where a spate of firebombings of synagogues and Jewish schools and attacks on rabbis over the last year has led Israel to denounce it as the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.

    Anger with Israel among France's large and growing Muslim population, combined with the strength of right-wing parties in some French districts, have contributed to an atmosphere that has alarmed political and Jewish leaders.

    Last year, Paris police were forced to set up a dedicated unit to deal with anti-Semitic crimes. Schoolteachers complain they face a hostile reaction among Muslim students when trying to teach the history of the Holocaust, which some equate with Israel's actions against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

    Many in France fear "The Passion" will stir up angry reaction of a different kind. The newspaper Liberation described Gibson's faith as "a Shiite version of Christianity . . . imbibed with blood and pain" which "reduces the message of Christ to his death by torture."

    Sunday Telegraph