Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Passion of Christ deemed 'Fascist' in France

In one of the more ironic stories of the week, a major French movie distributor, MK2, has refused to release Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ because it is deemed fascist. The company's president, Marin Karmitz, has labeled the movie 'fascist propoganda' due to its perceived anti-Semitic content.

Has Karmitz been on holiday too long and completely lost touch with movie reviews and viewer reactions stateside, which consistently support the notion that Gibson's movie is not anti-Semitic, much less fascist? No. This decision was made purely by Karmitz' disdain for American culture, and the fact that American viewers have made Passion one of the most successful movies ever released. Think I'm crazy? Let's take a look at Karmitz' world view - specifically as it relates to American culture and Hollywood.

In an interview published by Label France in 1998, Karmitz is clear in his opinions of America. He actually claims that Europe and America "are at war". When asked about the growing popularity of multiplex cinemas in France, Karmitz stated that the multiplexes are "giving rise to a two-tier culture, with one type of cinema for the poor and one for the rich. Films that cater for the rich are those where there are still traces of independent creative output while films for the poor have become the 'opium of the masses,' a policy of dumbing-down based on special effects, gratuitous violence, contempt for law and order". He goes on to state "we are in a situation of war, a very modern war, one that is being waged through a new industry, namely the communication in any war, there are those who resist, in this case artists from all over the world, a handful of intellectuals, some people in power, etc. Many are those who are collaborating through financial gain such as the heads of TV stations, who buy American films at inflated prices or who co-finance the U.S. film industry with millions of dollars ".

With this backdrop, Karmitz' motivation becomes much more clear. Passion is an overwhelming success in America. The movie has reminded us all of the suffering Christ endured, reminded us that our sins put Christ on the cross, and as a result has renewed the faith and commitment to Christian ideals within a large segment of the American populace. This movie is not about "special effects, gratuitous violence, contempt for law and order", it's about reflecting on the suffering of Christ, repenting for our sins, about turning our lives back to traditional, conservative values. While movies like Lethal Weapon are received with disdain from the likes of Karmitz, Passion is received with fear. In his mind, the release of Passion on French soil is akin to an American ICBM, with the potential of inflicting mass casualties to the European elitest left. In the laundry list of things that the European left loves to hate about America, conservative Christian values are on the top of the list.

As an aside, French viewers will have the opportunity to view the film in over 400 theaters beginning March 31, thanks in part to Quinta Distribution. Quinta founder Tarak Ben Ammar is convinced the movie is not anti-Semitic, and is arranging screenings for Jewish leaders in France prior to the movie's release. Said Kammar "I thought it was my duty as a Muslim who believes in Jesus, who respects and was brought up in the three (monotheist) religions, to have this film shown to the French and let them judge it for themselves," he told TF1 television late on Monday.

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