Paranoiacs can still create justified enemies. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is hacking off a lot of journalists. Apparently professional critics are being stonewalled and generally aren’t being allowed to see the film until a couple of days before the Ash Wednesday opening.
I’ve said here before that I believe pro critics had their knives out for the film long ago, but the press agencies’ paranoia is generating (semi-justified) ill will that won’t make things better. Just because they dislike you doesn’t mean you can’t make it worse. And it’s not just film critics, it’s also religion writers. A while ago, I got this note from the religion writer at a conservative daily paper who is an orthodox Christian, much more inclined to sympathy for Mel over the ADL, about the difficulties she had. She was treated like the enemy. Here it is, reprinted with her permission:
You would not believe what I had to go through to do the 2 stories that ran last week. A Larry Ross’ folks (the press agency managing the Gibson film) gave me permission to sneak in – they even told me how to sign up and get access. They said any confidentiality agreements would not apply to me. So I told my bosses 2 weeks ago everything was all arranged. But when I arrived in Orlando on Wednesday, I found everything had changed. People had to have their hands stamped to get in (the mark of the beast as it were) and they had these draconian confidentiality agreements everyone had to sign. This included the Mel Gibson “interview” in front of 5,000 pastors a few hours before the film was shown. Nothing could be written on what he said and the ushers were told to eject anyone caught with a tape recorder. This was totally unexpected. I signed the stupid form and walked in; took notes on Mel Gibson’s speech (he had nothing new to say), filed my story, then made the mistake of calling Larry Ross’ s folks to say I was in town. Ross’ folks panicked and they flooded my cell phone plus the newsroom with threatening calls – this was all 6:30 p.m. and later – So I called the managing editor and we discussed the legal aspects – we decided to go ahead and run the story on A1. But 3 hours later, Larry Ross was still putting in frantic calls to the newsroom to try to stop the story. WHY they thought Icon Productions (Mel Gibson’s production company) even cared at this point is beyond me.
Finally my immediate boss called me on my cell to find out what was going on – this is 9:20 p.m. minutes before the film is to start – I was in the middle of the church – as I went out into the hall to tell my boss on my cell phone what was going on, Larry Ross himself was standing there, reading to pounce. Being that he’s well over 6 feet tall, he’s hard to ignore. I was caught like a bug in a net, berated by Larry and then kicked out of the church. Standing next to him was the employee who had encouraged me to sneak in. I didn’t want to say much as I was afraid she’d lose her job.
As I was standing there, shivering (January nights in Fla. are cold), pouting and asking God what to do next, I walked around the church – all the doors were locked cept the main doors from what I could see. Went back to a plaza in front of the church where I could at least hear the soundtrack (all in Aramaic and Latin)- this guy (an angel in disguise) came up to me – asked if I was OK – I said no – he asked what I needed – I said I needed to get into the church but not through the main entrance which was under guard.
So he took me around to another door which was unlocked. This let me into a hallway next to a door right in the front of the church (where no usher would dare kick me out as everyone would hear the racket). Then I dashed into the auditorium and watched the rest of the film. (Missed about 20-25 mins but that’s all).
The next day, I bumped into an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter in my hotel lobby – we were laughing about how stupid the whole secrecy thing is as he too had wormed his way in on a false ID. He had not filed a story for Thursday’s paper like I had, tho. He then introduced me to the 2 guys from the ADL who also snuck into the film under the guise of being from the “Church of Truth” in Brooklyn. The ADL guys were very happy to give us quotes. They were quite inaccurate in terms of certain things the New Testament says – which I called them on – but most reporters do not know and will just repeat all these guys’ accusations of anti-Semitism. Larry Ross called me *back* later that day – didn’t apologize for kicking me out, but was tearing his hair over the ADL folks whose remarks by this time were on the wires.
I think “The Passion” is a great film but the way Icon is going about the security – while at the same time showing it to 5 zillion Christian groups and telling them not to talk about it- is nuts. There was a ton of media people there Wednesday afternoon trying to talk to him after his speech to the pastors – one producer flew down from New York and got nothing – Gibson just ran past the cameras and jumped into a car. I understand he’s got an exclusivity agreement with Diane Sawyer.
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