Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Mel Gibson + Holocaust = Box office gold
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 6 - Mel Gibson, whose "The Passion of the Christ" was assailed by critics as an anti-Semitic passion play - and whose father has been on record as a Holocaust denier - has a new project under way: a nonfiction miniseries about the Holocaust.
Mr. Gibson's television production company is developing a four-hour miniseries for ABC based on the self-published memoir of Flory A. Van Beek, a Dutch Jew whose gentile neighbors hid her from the Nazis but who lost several relatives in concentration camps.
Hey, that sounds lovely! But aren't people a little worried about, you know, the controversy?
But Quinn Taylor, ABC's senior vice president in charge of movies for television, acknowledged that the attention-getting value of having Mr. Gibson attached to a Holocaust project was a factor.
"Controversy's publicity, and vice versa," Mr. Taylor said.
Super. Can't wait for ABC to produce Saddam's long-rumored epic about the Kurdish chemical-massacre (working title: It Was All A Dream"). That'd have some zazz.
Mr. Gibson's father, Hutton Gibson, has repeatedly denied that the Holocaust happened, saying before the release of "Passion of the Christ," for example, that accounts of the Holocaust were mostly "fiction" and asserting that there were more Jews in Europe after World War II than before. Mel Gibson has declined to disassociate himself clearly from his father's views, according to Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Melrose Park, Pa., and the author of an annual study of Holocaust denial.
"For him to be associated with this movie is cause for concern," Mr. Medoff said. "He needs to come clean that he repudiates Holocaust denial, and that he understands the Holocaust was not just another atrocity that occurred in World War II along with other atrocities."
Now, this is a bit much. I don't know if Mel Gibson is or is not a holocaust denier, but to make the son culpable for the father is not at all fair. As for whether or not he "declined to disassociate himself clearly from his father's views," isn't that a matter of public record, and not an opinion by Rafael Medoff? Where is it that Gibson demurred from answering a tough question about the holocaust? Show me the quote.
Here's a quote from a terrific New Yorker piece by Peter Boyer. It's as close as it gets:
I reminded Gibson, who carries the Emmerich relic in his pocket, that some of
his critics have pointed out that Emmerich's depiction of Jews is inflammatory,
thereby imputing anti-Semitism to Gibson's film. “Why are they calling her a
Nazi?” Gibson asked. “Because modern secular Judaism wants to blame the
Holocaust on the Catholic Church. And it's a lie. And it's revisionism. And
they've been working on that one for a while.”
And if you read the whole article, you'll see that Gibson does decline to assail his father. Whether that means he's a denier or just a defender of his father is something that people would have to decide for themselves.
The urban-legend site Snopes has more on Mel and father and holocaust related issues, none of which completely exonerates Mel, none of which damns him.
UPDATE: Here's an interesting interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer:
Gibson: You know, do I believe that there were concentration camps where defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of course I do. Absolutely. It was an atrocity of monumental proportion.
Sawyer: Are you looking into the face of a particular kind of evil with the Holocaust?
Gibson: Of course. You're looking- yes...
Sawyer: ...What is the particular evil there?
Gibson: ...what's the particular evil? I mean, why do you need me to tell you? It's like, it's obvious. They're killed because of who and what they are. Is that not evil enough?...