Jewish groups in the Czech Republic have protested against the decision to honour the disgraced actor and director Mel Gibson with a lifetime achievement award at the Karlovy Vary international film festival.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic said Gibson's 2004 film The Passion of the Christ portrayed Jews as "evil and bloodthirsty", according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.com. The missive continued (link to Czech version): "By granting this award, the Karlovy Vary international film festival becomes another of the very arguable platforms that are gradually changing the atmosphere of our country from a traditional, relatively tolerant society into one where space is given to hostility, xenophobia, and antisemitic ideas."
It was not clear if the organisation also took issue with Gibson's widely publicised antisemitic rant after he was arrested for suspected drink-driving in Malibu, eight years ago. According to a police report, the actor asked the officer if he was Jewish and upon receiving a comment in the affirmative said: "Fucking Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."
Organisers at the festival in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary acknowledged receipt of the letter but said Gibson was being rewarded solely for his achievements in film. "The award is to recognise Gibson's film-making skills and his career," spokeswoman Uljana Donátová told Bloomberg. "We don't feel that we're entitled to comment on the rest. The Passion of the Christ won't be screened at the festival."
Gibson picked up the Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema on 4 July during the festival's opening. He told reporters he was "honoured, astounded" and "charmed" by his reception in the Czech Republic.
"Telling stories is the real gratification," he said. "When you see a child's eyes light up, or when you see an audience respond. I saw people, the general public, out there tonight and at some point they were moved by something I did, and this is most gratifying, and it humbles me to think that what I have to offer, the meagre thing, full of all the actor's insecurity, all the artist's insecurity, those things are actually received here and there, and in no small measure here."
[Photo of Mel Gibson via cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com]