Biblical movie’s
realism hits hard

A local screening of "The Passion"
stirs a Christian audience

A rough cut of Mel Gibson's movie about the final hours of Jesus Christ's life was previewed for a select Honolulu audience as part of a larger effort to drum up support for the embattled film.

Mel Gibson's "The Passion" was previewed here Thursday.

"The Passion of the Christ" was shown Thursday to a Christian audience of about 250 ministers, priests and church members at Chaminade University's Mamiya Theatre.

"The impact it made on me, about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ ... I could never doubt God's love for me again," said the Rev. Mike Stangel, pastor of North Shore Christian Fellowship. "I'm recommending it to everyone."

Stengel's response is just the sort of publicity being sought by Gibson's Icon Productions to offset the controversy generated over perceived anti-Semitism and graphic violence in the film, which will open for general audiences on Feb. 25, or Ash Wednesday for Roman Catholics.

The film has been lambasted by some Jewish leaders who say it suggests Jews were to blame for Christ's crucifixion. But it also has been hailed as a cinematic miracle by some Christians who have seen it.

The local crowd was the latest of select groups around the world to see a rough cut, Icon marketing director Paul Lauer told the crowd.

Icon does not have the huge marketing budget of major studios and hopes for grass-roots support to persuade theater chains to carry the film, he told the crowd in an after-show talk.

To prevent bad publicity, Icon required a signed disclaimer from each person promising no critical written reviews. But Lauer later told the crowd that "if you have something positive to say, go ahead and talk."

(The Star-Bulletin signed the disclaimer because it was not planning to review the movie.)

Lauer fielded questions from the crowd, some of whom watched for total scriptural detail. One man counted the strokes of the Roman soldiers whipping Jesus, a violent scene that has drawn criticism.

"It is intense and I thought it was realistic," Stangel said. "We have seen Army movies with blood and guts in excess."

At least six members of the audience walked out of the film during the scene.

Still, the Rev. Dan Chun, founder of Hawaiian Islands Ministries, said, "Compared to any other Jesus films, it is by far the most realistic."

Chun arranged the local showing, which was underwritten by the organization, which brings nationally known speakers to the annual Honolulu HIM Conference.

"For the unchurched ... this is a tremendous film for people to know about this man who transformed the history of the world," Chun said.

The Rev. Jim Tweedie, of Mililani Presbyterian Church, said he was "still processing" his response in part because of the depiction of the violence surrounding Christ's crucifixion.

"Believers can follow it. If you don't know anything about him, given that this person is being violently abused, why are these people so angry at him? There is no real context for it, no development."

Tweedie said Lauer's comments helped put the movie in perspective. "His explanation that this was based on Mel Gibson's reflections, that explained the movie to me. It was an interpretation. ... We know Mel likes blood," he said, referring to other Gibson films.

The actors speak in Aramaic, but the use of English subtitles did not seem to bother viewers.

"I loved it. That was exciting. That was the language Jesus spoke," said Annette Kozuki, of St. Michael Center for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She said the lay Catholic organization invited about 100 people.

The Rev. Lane Akiona, pastor of St. Patrick church, said, "It was like something came and grabbed my heart." He found the graphic portrayal of Christ's suffering "very powerful. It is for someone who is mature in faith. But I would not encourage children. Parents need to see it first and decide."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.


E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --