Vindicator Logo

BOARDMAN 'Passion' film draws emotions from audience at local debut

By Peter H. Milliken

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Many viewers called the movie a powerful emotional experience.
BOARDMAN -- Clergy and lay people who saw the first showing of "The Passion of the Christ" here expressed strong but diverse opinions about the movie, which presents a graphic portrayal of the Crucifixion.
"It's such a wonderful, powerful movie. It's nothing against the Jewish culture. It's nothing against any other human being. It's just that we all nailed him on the cross, and God forgive us and help us to go on as good, decent people as he would have us to be," said a tearful Susan M. Kasmer of Canfield, a member of New Life Assembly of God in Poland.
She was among those interviewed at the Tinseltown USA theater at Southern Park Mall after the opening of the two-hour movie before an extremely attentive Ash Wednesday audience of about 300. All audible speech in the movie is in Latin, Hebrew or Aramaic. English is used only in the subtitles in the movie, which depicts the biblical account with brutal realism.
The R-rated movie is dominated by almost nonstop violence and torture up to and including the Crucifixion, interspersed with some brief flashbacks to Jesus' childhood, carpentry work, preaching, and meetings with his disciples.
"It really was appropriately named 'The Passion' because it shows a lot of passion. I thought it was very well done. Every Christian should see it," said Warren Harrell, a resident of the East Side of Youngstown and a member of New Bethel Baptist Church on the city's South Side.
"It was a powerful portrayal of the Christian faith. It was a powerful portrayal of the passion of Christ. It will raise many emotional feelings for a lot of people, but it was inspirational," said the Rev. Bruce Rzengota, pastor of the Idaho Road Alliance Church in Austintown. He said he would encourage believers, as well as the curious, to see the movie.
"I don't believe it's appropriate for an evangelistic tool, in the sense that, if a person does not have an understanding of the story of the passion experience, they would kind of be lost in the midst of it," said the Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Youngstown's South Side.
Anti-Semitism issue
"It brought to the fore the traditional attitude of Jewish collective guilt for the death of Jesus, and, in that sense, I found it highly disturbing. I also thought that the violence that was so pervasive in the movie is gratuitous," said Rabbi Simeon Kolko of Beth Israel Temple in Warren.
"Any use of violence in a cheap emotional way, where it's not connected to some deeper cause for hope, is, to me, irresponsible. I was horrified by the anger and the violence that permeated this," the rabbi said. He added that he thinks "this passion narrative, the way it's depicted by Mel Gibson, has caused a lot of anti-Semitic feelings toward Jews in the past."
Many others in the audience said they were experiencing intense and deeply personal emotions and declined to be interviewed after the screening.