Local News

Triangle Film Critics, Church Leaders Look At Controversial Biblical Film

Posted February 23, 2004

— The buzz around Wednesday's opening of Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of The Christ" continues to rise.

The film depicts the last hours of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion. Most of the controversy surrounding it is focused on the portrayal of Jews and their role in the death of Jesus.

About two dozen reporters and film critics watched the film Monday in Cary. They believed it takes more than two hours on the big screen to tell the story that for many is larger than life.

"[It's] probably the most powerful representation of the passion of Christ I have ever seen," critic Ben McNeely said.

Others saw it differently.

"I went in expecting to be overwhelmed with all the controversy. I came out a little underwhelmed," critic Joel Fredy said.

"I thought it didn't do justice to the complexity of Christianity," said David Fellerath of

The Independent

.

Many of the critics believed "The Passion of The Christ" lived up to the publicity of violence and brutality and created more questions than it answered.

"It was gory. Yes, it was graphic. It was bloody, but I don't understand why that was R-rated and why a movie like a summer action film like "SWAT" can shoot 400 people without blood and get a PG-13," Fredy said.

Many critics were split on the issue of anti-Semitism as well as the question of separating art from reality.

"I'm wondering if people can look at this film and feel free to respond to it as a regular movie and not something that is above criticism because it's about a sacred subject," Fellerath said.

Several churches in the Triangle are buying tickets for the film in advance.

"I would say confidently with as much realism as possible, you have to understand the true suffering of Christ and you come away asking why?" said Youth Paster Dan Seaman of North Ridge Church.

Some Christian and Jewish leaders said they hope the film will be an opportunity for the two religions to better understand each other.

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