Skip to comments.A Jewish Screenwriter's Candid Response to The Passion
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
Its 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 films 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 mankinds 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 worlds 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, Im afraid, helping to fulfill the very prophecy they so deeply fear. The irony here, relative to the movies 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 weve 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 youre 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.
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.
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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.
Whoa! He had me until this faux pas. McCarthy equated with Stalin!!? Idiot!!!
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 . . .
This, coming from a Jewish film maker, is both a compliment and an endorsement for The Passion. Kudos to Mel Gibson!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.