MPAA in the cross hairs

Org in a religious row over 'Giants' rating

The mystery of whether the MPAA gave “Facing the Giants,” a tiny church-financed film, a PG rating instead of a G because of religious content got murkier Wednesday.

Ratings board chair Joan Graves told Daily Variety that in a conversation earlier in the day with the film’s backers they said that religion didn’t figure into the PG rating.

“They’re acknowledging they made a mistake,” she said. “I’m happy.”

But the truce quickly unraveled.

An MPAA rep at first said the peace talks were held with Provident Films head Ben Howard.

A rep for Howard said he and Graves did talk on Wednesday but called the MPAA’s account of the call “absolutely inaccurate.”

(Later, the MPAA backed away from its claim that Howard was the one who accepted Graves’ version.)

Nancy Lovell, a spokeswoman for the film, insisted that it was the MPAA that had changed its position, not them: “The first communication from the MPAA was that religion was a factor in the rating. Since then, the MPAA has revised those factors to no longer include religion.”

In response, Graves commented, “Obviously, there’s a miscommunication here,” adding, “In no way was it a matter of religion being presented on the screen.”

“Giants,” a film about a football coach who fixes his life and wins the big game after embracing Jesus Christ, has become a hot topic on cable chat shows, talk radio and conservative Christian Web sites.

The MPAA handed down its rating in early May, but things really started bubbling two weeks ago when Provident marketing VP Kris Fuhr told a columnist, “It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about.”

The filmmakers say they always expected the PG rating — because of discussions about infertility and depression — and they do not plan to appeal the board’s decision.

Nevertheless, the claims that Christianity is taboo at the MPAA board has led to a flood of more than 15,000 angry emails to the board.

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