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Censor Blind To Merits Of "Passion Of The Christ"

P.O. BOX 13-683 Johnsonville E-mail

26 February 2004

Press Release … for immediate release


''In the movie [The Passion of the Christ] Christ’s eyes are pecked out by a raven while he is still alive. That is not in the Gospel'', says Chief Censor Bill Hastings, as quoted in the NZPA report published today in the Dominion Post (25 Feb. p. A2).

The Society, whose advisors have viewed the film, say that this claim is incorrect and unfortunately risks seriously smearing the film’s content (and director). A raven does not peck out the eyes of Christ while he is alive or dead. A raven does not touch Christ. If Mr Hastings can not distinguish between the impenitent thief on the cross and Christ, something other viewers of the movie have had no difficulty doing when commenting on the same incident on talk- back radio, and if the theological expertise he has claimed to have on tap in his Office and elsewhere is unaware of the wealth of symbolic import traditionally attaching over centuries to the figure of the raven in Christian art and architecture, then one can have little confidence in Mr Hasting’s ability to sift the fern seed of the more subtle considerations of this important film.

Such confidence is hardly inspired by Mr Hastings’ bizarre comparisons on Newstalk ZB Radio of The Passion with straight-out horror films such as the theologically defective The Exorcist and – more astonishingly still - Rosemary’s Baby.

He makes a major category mistake in insisting that the film fits the “horror genre” merely because he has identified depictions of “gargoyle-like demons associated with Satan”, “eerie sound effects lighting and music” and “supernatural” elements. As with the raven, he betrays no understanding of the import and significance of the gargoyle in Christian architecture and art. (He states that the [R16] restriction [his Office gives the film] is due to the film’s treatment of matters of violence, cruelty and horror”). This is exactly the same sort of unsophisticated category error that he would no doubt be the first to pillory, were it to be made by a poorly educated and narrow moralist blind to possible redeeming artistic and cultural merits. It is difficult to resist the impression that a faddish and politically-correct adherence to a mindset hostile to traditional Christian religious expression has blinded him to the merits of a major cinematic achievement, which Time Magazine describes as a “strenuously reverent adaptation of some famous chapters from the all-time best-selling book.”

The Society president, Mike Petrus, asks, “How can the Chief Censor, who holds a statutory position and who has completed his Office’s task of issuing a classification on the film, be allowed to continue to publicly malign and smear this film through errors in the media? Furthermore, how can the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon George Hawkins, continue to have confidence in him.”


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