'Passion' is fascist propaganda: French film boss

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The Independent Online

An independent French film distributor has described Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as "fascist propaganda".

An independent French film distributor has described Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as "fascist propaganda".

Marin Karmitz, president of the MK2 group, said that he would not show the movie - a runaway box-office success in the United States - in any of his 10 cinemas.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the newspaper of the American movie industry, M. Karmitz said: "I have always fought against fascism, notably through [the films I show]. For me, Passion is a film of fascist propaganda."

M. Karmitz is president of the French federation of movie distributors, but said that he had no objection to the film appearing in other cinemas in France to allow an informed debate on Gibson's work.

He accused the Australian-born director of not only presenting a distorted and anti-Semitic view of the New Testament story but also "turning violence and barbarity into a spectacle".

"For two hours, you see a man being tortured, nothing else," said M. Karmitz.

Although he is Jewish, he criticised Jewish lobbies in the US for focusing on the alleged anti-Semitic elements in the movie and not its "culture of violence". "Behind this Passion ... you can glimpse a whole internationale of religious fundamentalism, a martyrology based on violence, contempt for the body and hatred for [humanity]," he said.

The film is due to be released in 600 cinemas across France on 31 March by Quinta Distribution, a company owned by the Franco-Tunisian film producer Tarak Ben Ammar.

M. Ben Ammar, who produced Franco Zeffirelli's equally controversial Jesus of Nazareth in 1977 and Roberto Rossellini's The Messiah in 1975, has said the film is not racist or anti-Semitic.

Other French distribution firms have been wary of the movie. The Catholic hierarchy described it as "challenging".

M. Ben Ammar said: "I thought it was my duty as a Muslim who believes in Jesus, and because I was brought up to respect all three monotheist religions, to show this movie to the people of France and let them judge for themselves."

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