‘Son of God': Jewish Leader Hopes Bible Film Will Be ‘Antidote’ to ‘Passion of the Christ’

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Anti-Defamation League director thinks the new movie can undo damage done by Mel Gibson’s, which debuted 10 years ago Tuesday

The bible saga “Son of God” will be “the antidote to the poison that ‘Passion of the Christ’ became,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman told TheWrap Tuesday.

“It’s almost a disservice to ‘Son of God’ to compare the two,” he said. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey‘s pared-down version of the History channel miniseries “The Bible” opens nationwide Friday on roughly 3,000 screens Friday.

It’s been 10 years to the day since “Passion of the Christ” debuted, and it’s still the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever. But it’s remembered as much for the charges of anti-Semitism, excessive violence and prerelease controversy as it is for its $370 million box-office haul.

Also read: Jesus Is Back on the Big Screen in ‘Son of God’ Trailer (Video)

“Gibson bloodied the Jews by portraying them as such villains,” said Foxman. He was among the Jewish leaders who a decade ago spoke out bitterly against Gibson’s brutal recounting of Christ’s crucifixion, saying its depiction of sadistic Pharisees and stereotypical characters fanned the flames of hatred against Jews.

But he has no problem with “Son of God.”

“The story of the crucifixion and the way it has been used through the centuries has never been good for the Jews,” he said.

Anti-Defamation League Centennial Entertainment Industry Awards Dinner Honoring Jeffrey Katzenberg - Inside“Having said that, ‘Son of God’ is the most sensitive, caring depiction of the story of Jesus that I have ever seen. The producers have done everything possible to put the events into historical, political and psychological context.”

Foxman (photo left) said that he thought “Son of God” could replace “Passion of the Christ” as the go-to movie for films about the life and death of Christ.

Also read: ‘Son of God’ Cuts Satan Scenes Featuring Obama Lookalike

“It’s not perfect, but it’s done with the proper sensitivity and perspective and I would hope that for future generations, ‘Son of God’ will be the vehicle used to teach that part of history,” he said.

Foxman said that his organization met with Downey and Burnett and provided each other with “mutual guidance.”

“After ‘The Bible’ came out, we reached out and talked thr0ugh the issues that could be hurtful or painful,” said Foxman. “We didn’t agree on everything, but it was clear there was respect on both sides.”

The ADL is even sponsoring a dinner honoring Burnett and Downey on May 8.

Foxman said that while it felt funny for him to endorse a film about the crucifixion, “in this context I said yes, absolutely.”

Also read: Joe Eszterhas Claims Death Threats, Calls on Mel Gibson to Denounce Anti-Semitic Supporters

The love fest between the “Son of God” producers and the ADL is in stark contrast to the approach Gibson took with the “Passion,” which was controversial for months before its release. The director failed to reach out to Jewish leaders when the film was coming together, and Gibson came under blistering fire while he was taking a renegade approach to getting it into theaters.

When no studio stepped up to finance the project — an explicitly brutal retelling of Christ’s final 12 hours told in ancient Aramaic and Latin with no stars — Gibson bankrolled the $30 million production budget himself.

He directed and co-wrote “The Passion,” which was filmed in Italy and stars Jim Cavaziel as Christ. Fox, which had a deal with Gibson’s Icon Productions at the time, passed on distributing the film because of the complaints about its perceived anti-Semitism and excessive violence. So Gibson released it himself on Ash Wednesday, 2004.

Also read: Anti-Defamation League Director Says Mel Gibson is ‘Serial Anti-Semite, Serial Bigot’

The critics focused more on the brutality. Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars, but called it the most violent film he’d ever seen. Slate’s David Edelstein called it a “two-hour snuff film” and “the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.”

But with conservative Christian leaders across the nation urging their flocks to turn out, “The Passion of the Christ” brought in $83 million in its first weekend, despite the criticism and protests at theaters.

The film went on to take in more than $611 million worldwide.

  • Joel A. Ohmer

    So, Jews are upset that Gibson lifted the bushel from the lamp? Passion showed us the truth of what happened … and if that causes shame, anger or embarrassment to Jews, then THEY have to work through that.

    • jaykayDX

      Don’t bother – they have a history of pretending to be the victim while they stab YOU in the back ….

  • Nicky Bocker

    Just cutting the scenes with the actor that supposedly looks like Obama tells me this film is produced by the politically correct to make themselves feel good and not worth watching. Christ came to earth for a reason and it was to defeat things like political correctness. Christ never avoided subjects because it made people feel uncomfortable, to the contrary it was his mission to make us uncomfortable with our sinful lifestyle.

  • jaykayDX

    Oh look, another Jew trying to censor free speech by denying what was written in a book of fairy tales while SIMULTANEOUSLY using that VERY SAME book of fairy tales to steal land from and deny The Palestineans the right to live in dignity and peace …

    This shameless fat pig Foxman probably shouts out ‘Anti-Semite’ at any pigeon who dares to poop on his car!

    Speaking of fairy tales, will Hollyweird spare us the usual raft of Holocaust movies this year? I’d really like to see a movie detailing the plight of Palestineans (created by Isra-HELL), the civil war in South Sudan (funded by Mossad) or the massacre of over thirty million christians in Russia by the Bolsheviks (who were mostly Jews) – but I won’t hold my breath waiting …..

  • Kasey

    Anti-semitic? Hardly. If there was any bigotry it was against Italians. There should have been more about how POTC portrayed Romans as brutal killers of JC. That made millions never want to talk to an Italian ever again, right?