I was advised to watch the movie "The Passion of Christ" because of its powerful scenes and evangelic message. I was eager to finally sit and learn about the death of Jesus Christ. Controversies had arisen to whether or not the movie was historically accurate. Obviously these controversies would arise since it is a story that had taken place nearly 2,000 years ago. Most of the movie was based on Christian mythology and Scriptures from the Holy Bible, while some parts of the movie were based on historic fact.
One of the biggest controversies was whether the movie was anti-Semitic. This movie, like all movies, may be biased and, therefore, offensive to some Americans. The only people who can tell us if it is anti-Semitic are our Jewish neighbors.
The American film industry has a history of racial controversy ranging from the black-painted performers mocking African Americans, to the red-painted actors demonizing Native Americans. Today, the American film industry has progressed somewhat, but controversies of inaccurate depictions of ethnic groups still exist.
I went to the movie with an open mind. Surprisingly, I was only moved in one scene, when Jesus touches his mother for the last time. Nevertheless, I sure learned a lot about the Christian culture.
Six months later, I was advised NOT to watch another movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11." Michael Moore cleverly titled his movie from the book by Ray Bradbury, "Fahrenheit 451." Most of the scenes in the movie are taken from what the media has deemed useless or inappropriate for Americans to see. From the dead Iraqi babies, to the coffins of America's freedom fighters; from the diplomatic relations between U.S. and Saudi officials, to President Bush's helpless expression in a school classroom; from the terror of 9/11, to terror of American bombs leveling Iraqi residential zones; from the emotions of an Iraqi mother who lost a loved one, to the emotions of an American family of a killed soldier. All scenes are real and involve no stage props or paid actors.
The controversies are hotter than those of "The Passion of Christ." Concerns of video and document fabrication, coercion, and conspiracy theory have kept theaters from showing the movie and Americans from viewing it. Yet Oscar-winning director Michael Moore has the credibility to have his film shown in as many theaters as another Oscar-winning director, Mel Gibson.
Putting all conspiracy theories aside, I think the American film industry has bias on what movies they want the public to view. Again, I went to the movie with an open mind and, surprisingly, I was moved throughout the entire movie. The most powerful scene was when the mother of a killed American soldier cried and asked Jesus and President Bush for an explanation. I learned a lot about American media, politics, the goals of our leaders and about the war in Iraq.
Patriotic film makers
I had a lot to think about after watching both "The Passion of Christ" and "Fahrenheit 9/11." Who could withstand witnessing the torture and crucifixion of their own child? Who would want to give up their own child to fight in a war for another's political and economic interests? Why is our religious history more important than our current events? Why do we pay more attention and give more credit to a story that happened 2,000 years ago, than a documentary of events that began only years ago? It is up to us to answer these questions.
Mel Gibson and Michael Moore are exercising their rights as Americans. Exercising the rights to freedom of religion, speech and press are far more patriotic than waving an American flag. As Americans, we need to exercise our rights as free thinkers. We need to quit letting the public and the media do the thinking for us. Do not let your friends or the media stop you from making your own judgments on the death of Christ or the death of American and Iraqi children. Let us all watch both movies with open minds and decide for ourselves, then, and only then, will we truly be American.
Leo Killsback of Busby is a doctoral candidate in Native American Studies at the University of Arizona. He has taught an undergraduate course in Native Americans and films.