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Where ‘Heart’ goes, controversy follows

Jolie film drawing attention from religious orgs

Controversy continued to dog “A Mighty Heart” on the eve of its bigscreen bow, as pic drew fire over a screening designed to promote religious tolerance.

Paramount Vantage initiated the Thursday evening event — a screening followed by a panel discussion at the Sherry Lansing theater — soliciting input from Muslim, Christian and Jewish orgs. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU) ended up co-sponsoring with the specialty label; Plan B co-producer Dede Gardner and Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak were skedded to appear on the panel along with reps of CAIR and PCU. Café Intifada, Friends of Pakistan, USA and Muslim Public Affairs Council also lent their support to the event.

However, a Jewish activist decried the leanings of several of the participants, likening CAIR’s involvement to “David Duke co-sponsoring ‘Schindler’s List.'”

“The only reason they like this film is because it’s about a dead Jew,” said Allyson Rowen-Taylor, who has been involved in orgs such as the American Jewish Congress and Stand With Us. The activist found out about the event from a friend who’s a member of the Academy and immediately expressed her outrage to Judea Pearl, father of the late journo Daniel Pearl.

“This is Hollywood’s idea of a ‘dialogue,’ ” he wrote in an email obtained by Daily Variety. Pearl was traveling Thursday evening and could not be reached for comment.

In the email, he said he was not consulted by Par Vantage about CAIR’s involvement, a fact the studio confirms. “That hasn’t really been the nature of the campaign,” a rep said, pointing out that Daniel Pearl’s parents and widow hadn’t been intimately involved in marketing decisions.

“Vantage went into the screening tonight with the best intentions,” the rep said shortly before the pic was to begin unspooling on the lot. “Like the film, this was designed to celebrate dialogue of people of diverse backgrounds and faith.”

Par Vantage also unspooled the pic June 6 at the Museum of Tolerance. Event, which was attended by stars Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman, raised $15,000 for the Pearl Foundation.

“A Mighty Heart” has drawn controversy from the moment Jolie was cast to play Mariane Pearl, a woman of Afro-Cuban heritage. The production relocated from Pakistan to India amid protests.

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