NewsHour Extra Feature Stories
NewsHour Extra features stories can help students identify and interpret key issues
in current events. This activity anticipates one class period, but the follow-up
essay might be assigned as homework, or in another period.
Up: Use initiating questions to introduce the topic and find out how much
your students know.
Activity: Have students read NewsHour Extra's feature story and answer the
questions on the reading comprehension handout.
Use discussion questions to encourage students to think about how the issues outlined
in the story affect their lives and express and debate different opinions.
Students can write an 500-word editorial on the topic expressing their views
and send it to NewsHour Extra [firstname.lastname@example.org]
for possible publication.
Students are graded on their answers to reading comprehension questions and/or
'The Passion of the Christ' Incites Passionate Criticism: 2/25/04
you heard of Mel Gibson's new movie?
What is it about and why is it controversial?
Comprehension Questions: (click here for
is the movie "The Passion of the Christ" based on?
a conservative Roman Catholic, spent around $25 million of his own money to produce
the film, which is based on the Biblical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Known collectively as "the Passions," each tells the story of ancient
Jewish high priests, along with Roman emperor Pontius Pilate, putting Jesus on
trial and condemning him to death by crucifixion.
Why are Jewish leaders criticizing the movie?
of Gibson's film began prior to its release when some Jewish leaders said its
depiction of Jews could incite hatred. They said the movie is a modern-day "passion
play" similar to those produced during the Middle Ages. Those performances
exaggerated the Gospels and depicted Jews as bloodthirsty haters of Christ, often
inciting crowds to violence and leading to persecution and murder.
some Jewish leaders, who have worked closely with the Catholic Church to dispel
such myths about Jews, say the film could stir similar emotions. They especially
object to seeing the Jewish high priests in the movie rendered as schemers demanding
Jesus' death over the protests of a sympathetic Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.
What would the Anti-Defamation League like Mel Gibson to add to his movie?
league had asked Gibson to remove some of the more controversial depictions of
Jews from the film and to put a postscript at the end of the film, imploring viewers
not to leave the theater feeling hate.
Why have some critics said teens should not see this movie?
addition to charges of anti-Semitism, critics have said the film, which is rated
R, is brutally violent and could be traumatic for teenagers. The movie shows a
real-time graphic beating and Jesus being nailed to the cross.
How have some Christian groups and parents responded to the violence?
church groups and Christian parents argue that the story of Jesus' death is a
large part of their faith and that their children should not be shielded from
the violence in this movie as they would other movies.
reason this movie is an exception is that it's a true story," Dr. Bill Maier
of the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family told the Dallas
Morning News. "It's the most important story every told from a Christian
perspective. And it's the greatest lesson of altruism and self-sacrifice anyone
has ever seen," he said.
How has Gibson defended his film?
says the movie is his depiction of what he read in the bible.
is my version of what happened, according to the gospels and what I wanted to
show - the aspects of it I wanted to show," he said.
What has all the publicity done for the film?
the controversy and because of the publicity, "The Passion of the Christ"
is expected to gross between $15 million and $30 million in its opening weekend
and is one of the most talked about films since Star Wars, according to movie
industry magazine Variety.
week the online movie ticket seller Fandango.com reported that "The Passion"
had accounted for 70 percent of its advance sales.
Questions (more research might be needed):
1. Do you think critics who say this movie is anti-Semitic are right
about its ability to incite hatred? Should Mel Gibson have agreed to put a postscript
at the end of his film asking people not to leave feeling hate?
Movie companies sometimes use controversy to generate publicity to sell tickets.
Do you think that is part of what is happening? Why or why not? Has Mel Gibson's
movie been given the same scrutiny as some other violent movies such as Quentin
Tarantino's Kill Bill or Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers? Should it be? Why
or why not?
answers, in essay form, to email@example.com
for possible publication!