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A Jewish Screenwriter's Candid Response to The Passion
Catholic Exchange | Oct. 9, 2003 | Alan Sereboff

Posted on 10/10/2003 1:44:06 PM PDT by haole

A Jewish Screenwriter's Candid Response to The Passion 10/10/03

An Open Letter to Mel Gibson

by Alan Sereboff Thursday, Oct. 9, 2003

Dear Mel,

It’s now been a month since I viewed “The Passion,” and I write this letter hoping enough time has passed so that I can speak with some semblance of objectivity.

Quite simply, I believe you have made one of the most breathtaking, poignant movies of our time. I cannot recall a film that has had such a profound effect on my understanding of history, religion and, perhaps most importantly, what we as human beings are capable of in relation to our treatment of one another.

The film’s theme and central lesson is clear and timeless: In the depths of our humanity lies the capacity for great evil and utter ignorance, as well as an equal capacity for love, forgiveness and compassion. It is in this furnace of duality that the arrows of love and compassion are cast alongside the swords of war and hatred. Therein rages the battle that will seethe as long as human beings walk the earth.

Your position as a filmmaker and as a Catholic is obvious from the beginning of the first act. Jesus died for the sins of all humanity. This simple yet powerful idea runs in direct conflict to the notion that Jesus died simply at the behest of the Jews, or for that matter, the Romans. Further, Mary, Jesus, and all of the Apostles are clearly depicted as Jews. Clearly Jewish is the angry throng protesting the crucifixion. Simon, who helps Jesus carry the cross to the final station, is clearly a compassionate Jew.

The film simply depicts the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life and the ordeal he endured as the sufferer of mankind’s sins for all eternity. To say this film is in any way about “finger pointing” or “assigning blame” is akin to saying that “Gladiator” is a film about lion fighting and the Romans’ and Gladiators’ penchant for animal cruelty. It would take an animal rights activist yelling from the world’s highest soapbox to simplify “Gladiator” that way.

That being said, I am deeply saddened and pained by the assault on the film and your character being perpetrated by those whose ignorance is, I’m afraid, helping to fulfill the very prophecy they so deeply fear. The irony here, relative to the movie’s story, is too great to go unmentioned.

My feelings on the film, as a filmmaker, are clear. As a Jew, I left the movie feeling a greater sense of kinship and closeness to my Christian brothers and sisters than I ever thought imaginable. I see “The Passion” as one of the most powerful uniting tools to ever take advantage of the single medium capable of such a task, namely, film.

Whether one believes that Jesus was in fact the Son of God is essentially unimportant in appreciating the beauty and message of the film. The story of the simple relationship between a mother and her son alone is enough to soften even the most hardened of souls.

There are a myriad ways to view the film based on the beliefs the viewer brings with him; if you do believe Jesus was the savior, then this film may be about his having to die for our transgressions. If you do not believe Jesus was the Son of God, then maybe at the least, you leave the film with a great disdain of the laws of the time. Crucifixion was a barbaric and cruel act; it is possible that in a thousand years civilization will look back on our current death penalty in the same way.

I wonder how they will choose to characterize our society. Will it be as murderous Christians or Jews? Murderous Republicans or Democrats? Murderous people who wore blue uniforms, versus those who did not? Alternatively, perhaps they will look back at our society as one whose laws were simply … barbaric.

In the past, my father has related to me stories of his youth as a Jew growing up in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood. Hardly a day went by when he did not have to defend himself as a “Christ killer.” Based on your and my discussions, I know how sensitive you are to this reality, as well as the reality that for centuries Jews were persecuted in this very ignorant manner, unfortunately thereby detracting from the Testaments’ actual meaning.

I suppose it is for this reason that the ADL and others believe they are doing the right thing by attacking the film and your character, led by the vicious surgical strike leveled at you in the New York Times. In my opinion, they are guided by a misguided fear that unfortunately belies their very concerns. That is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that the mudslingers in this case may be creating controversy in an attempt to justify their jobs. I find this “Wag the Dog” scenario disturbing and dangerous.

Simply put, at the end of the day it is only their message that asks the potential viewer to see the film as anti-Semitic.

Bottom line: “The Passion” will not create a single bigot or anti-Semite. It may, however, reveal them. So much the better.

Finally, as we’ve discussed, the centuries of persecution that I spoke of earlier went beyond racial slurs and corporal punishment. Jews were told what they could and could not think, what they could and could not believe, and what they could and could not say.

If for no other reason, I would hope that fellow Jews and Christians alike would see the importance in respecting your rights to create and share whatever vision you choose, and the hypocrisy in the attempts to censure of said rights. I would hope we have moved past the age of ignorance that saw the near genocide of a people, book burnings, men like McCarthy and Stalin flourish, and the raising of a wall in Germany. I would hope that we would not let ignorance guide us back to what we fear so deeply

.

Now, this goes without saying, but based on our relationship alone, I know you’re in no way, shape, or form anti-Semitic. I wish with a passion that everyone could know as I do the innate kindness and goodness in your heart. I believe that when they view this movie unencumbered, they will. The film, like any other, deserves that chance.

Thank you for allowing me to view a film that has restored my faith in the power of our medium to move, educate, and uplift the spirit.

Sincerely,

Alan Sereboff

Alan Sereboff is a screenwriter who has viewed Mel Gibson's film "The Passion." Sereboff is Jewish and has worked for Mel's company, Icon Productions, and says, “I will continue to work for him proudly.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: alansereboff; melgibson; moviereview; passionofchrist; thepassion
"Quite simply, I believe you have made one of the most breathtaking, poignant movies of our time. "
1 posted on 10/10/2003 1:44:07 PM PDT by haole
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2 posted on 10/10/2003 1:45:18 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: haole
"Whether one believes that Jesus was in fact the Son of God is essentially unimportant in appreciating the beauty and message of the film."

I haven't seen the film. But if he thinks it's beautiful without believing Jesus is the Son of God, it is so much more beautiful knowing that it's the God of Creation on that Cross.

3 posted on 10/10/2003 1:49:38 PM PDT by DannyTN (Note left on my door by a pack of neighborhood dogs.)
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To: haole
This guy in a single review does more to avert anti-semitism than all the ravings of Abe Foxman.
4 posted on 10/10/2003 1:50:46 PM PDT by per loin
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: haole
Praise the Lord!
6 posted on 10/10/2003 1:56:01 PM PDT by Delphinium
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To: haole
This review is very consistent with what Matt Drudge (who is Jewish) and Robert Downey Jr. (ditto) have said after seeing the film.

The brickbats are being thrown by people who have not seen the film. Their criticism says much more about their agenda than it does about Gibson or his movie.
7 posted on 10/10/2003 1:59:29 PM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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To: haole
men like McCarthy and Stalin flourish, and the raising of a wall in Germany

Whoa! He had me until this faux pas. McCarthy equated with Stalin!!? Idiot!!!

8 posted on 10/10/2003 2:00:04 PM PDT by Spiff (Have you committed one random act of thoughtcrime today?)
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To: Psalm118
Ping!

Check this out brother. With the exception of paragraph eight (?) this letter is quite revealing . . . to me anyway.

I'll be writing Italy this weekend . . . or should I write Asia? God bless . . .

9 posted on 10/10/2003 2:03:50 PM PDT by w_over_w (Ask ME how YOU can earn a extra $1500.00 a day using this tagline space!)
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To: haole; american colleen; sinkspur; Lady In Blue; Salvation; Polycarp; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; ...
I cannot recall a film that has had such a profound effect on my understanding of history, religion and, perhaps most importantly, what we as human beings are capable of in relation to our treatment of one another.

This, coming from a Jewish film maker, is both a compliment and an endorsement for The Passion. Kudos to Mel Gibson!

10 posted on 10/10/2003 3:38:46 PM PDT by NYer (Pax et Bonum)
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To: NYer
Let's see how many Catholics are willing to laud the Luther film.
11 posted on 10/10/2003 3:43:19 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: Spiff
Give him the benefit of the doubt. He probably meant Eugene McCarthy.
12 posted on 10/10/2003 3:48:58 PM PDT by Mr. Lucky
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To: haole
The Gospel makes it very clear that Jesus was condemned under both Judaic AND Roman law, and that in both cases He was innocent of the charges brought against him. His blood is on everyone's hands, Jew and Gentile alike.

Then on the Cross He said, "Father, forgive them." Meaning, Jew and Gentile equally alike.

Thank you, Mr. Sereboff. I am looking forward to seeing the movie for myself.

13 posted on 10/10/2003 4:00:28 PM PDT by Chairman Fred (@mousiedung.commie)
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To: drstevej
Can't say I have seen the Luther film. I will definitly rent it when it comes out on video (don't know a theatre showing it here (NorthShore Chicago)). If you do, let me know. As a history nut as well, I loved the costumes. Not a huge fan of Mr. Fiennes, but I love the actor who plays one of the German nobles (forgot actor's name, feel like idiot now). Anyway, God Bless. (Still don't agree with Luther though).
14 posted on 10/10/2003 7:17:41 PM PDT by StAthanasiustheGreat (Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit)
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To: NWU Army ROTC
You don't have to agree with Luther to appreciate the film. I haven't seen it yet but plan to. Will definitely get the DVD and may even do a series of Sunday School lessons using the film if it is suitable.

The 1954 B&W film, "Here I Stand" was really great, IMO.
15 posted on 10/10/2003 7:22:48 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: drstevej
I liked it better than the critics. The best part was that it showed how much Luther owed to Frederick the Wise. With two points I disagree: (1) Frederick never became a Lutheran and (2) Never met Luther.
16 posted on 10/10/2003 9:10:01 PM PDT by RobbyS (CHIRHO)
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To: Chairman Fred
Jesus died for the sins of all humanity.

I could never quite understand what this statement means. How could one die for another who is yet unborn? If one dies for another, does that mean the other does not die? And if he does die, then how could the one have died for him. If I am responsible for my sins, how could another accept punishment on my behalf?

Any clarifications out there?

17 posted on 10/10/2003 9:16:13 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: Rudder
How old are you?
18 posted on 10/10/2003 9:22:23 PM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: per loin
As a Jew, I agree 100%
19 posted on 10/10/2003 9:23:54 PM PDT by Hildy
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To: AmericaUnited
Likely older than you.
20 posted on 10/10/2003 9:29:25 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: Rudder
I really don't want to be sarcastic if you are really asking your questions in good faith, but I'd be awfully skeptical if you are older than 12 and still asking.

Try this simple case....

The penalty for stealing is 1 year in jail. Justice demands that the time must be served for the crime. You steal. You get caught. You get sentenced to the one year. You are married with 10 kids. Your best friend, who is single, offers to the judge to serve your time, to meet the justice requirement, instead of seeing you and your family get ruined. Justice is served... someone paid the penalty for the crime.

21 posted on 10/10/2003 9:30:23 PM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: AmericaUnited
I don't think your analogy fits. It's too simplistic to say that Christ was simply a stand-in (a whipping boy) for all the rest of humanity. If, however, your argument is really is all there is to Christ's ordeal then I have been seriously overestimating the "meaning" of Christ.
22 posted on 10/10/2003 9:39:15 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: Rudder
It's too simplistic to say that Christ was simply a stand-in (a whipping boy) for all the rest of humanity.

Why should it have to be complicated? Just because?

But of course if you believe that you either never sinned, or did and thats there's no punishment for it, then none of this would make sense.

23 posted on 10/10/2003 9:46:42 PM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: AmericaUnited
Let's accept that sin deserves punishment.

I think that if I have sinned then another cannot obliterate my sins by accepting punishment properly intended for me.

But, according to you, if Christ, instead of me, was punished for my sins, I am off the hook. If not, then what Christ endured was not effective, was it? Did Christ's act of standing in on my behalf alleviate either my sin or the fact that as a sinner I deserve punishment?

If the answer to the last question is no, then Christ's act as a stand-in was a futile gesture.

24 posted on 10/10/2003 9:55:54 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: Rudder
Ok, as you wish. The Son of God was a fool and didn't realize his purpose was futile and a giant waste of time. Since He says He was doing the will of His all-knowing Heavenly Father, you'd have to wonder how smart God really is. Right?
25 posted on 10/11/2003 5:11:51 AM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: AmericaUnited
you'd have to wonder how smart God really is. Right?

Well, I have always thought there was much more to Christ's ordeal (i.e., that he was more than a stand-in) than what you have told me, but I wasn't sure of my interpretation. I thank you for responding to my question, but, although I'm not at all sure, still I think there's more to Christ than his being a mere whipping boy for humanity.

26 posted on 10/11/2003 7:11:18 AM PDT by Rudder
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To: Rudder
Yes, here's the short answer. I'll let Jesus speak for himself.

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. "

It's also best if you read the what,why,when yourself directly also.

27 posted on 10/11/2003 7:23:34 AM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: haole
BTTT
28 posted on 10/11/2003 6:54:18 PM PDT by Michael2001 (Every man lives, and every man dies, but not every man truly lives)
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To: Rudder
If you read Genesis, you'll soon read of man's first sin and the fruit of that forbidden tree, that is of original sin, which sundered humankind from its creator, and - so Christian theology - closed heaven off, until Christ came, and by dying, ransomed humankind and redeemed our sinfulness, allowing us to make peace with our creator.
29 posted on 10/13/2003 6:34:48 AM PDT by a history buff
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To: w_over_w
We'll be busy here in Capri then leave for SE Asia in mid-November. Such is the plan anyway, if The Lord is willing.

Wrt to article author, didn't the Bard write:

"...the [man] protesteth too much, methinks..."

$ 0.25 advice:

Test the spirits, at all times.
30 posted on 10/13/2003 7:05:40 AM PDT by Psalm118 (Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth i)
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To: drstevej
Let's see how many Catholics are willing to laud the Luther film.

I haven't seen the film, but I give Luther great credit for advancing Western civilization. He surely had flaws, (a deep hatred of Jews being among them) but he was also a great man.

31 posted on 10/13/2003 7:14:49 AM PDT by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
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