PARIS — Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” continues to send shockwaves through the French film industry, as another member of the Union of Film Producers (UPF) resigned Wednesday.
Board member Sylvain Bursztejn ankled, after eight years in UPF, to protest the union’s press release backing pic’s distribution by Franco-Tunisian producer Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Distribution after other distribs had seemed slow to step up to the plate.
The UPF statement, issued a day after “The Passion” bowed March 31, backed Ammar, “who has affirmed his attachment to the freedom of expression and to the free circulation of artistic works in making the public the only judge of Mel Gibson’s direction.”
UPF’s statement was a response to critics, such as Marin Karmitz, head of Gallic mini-major MK2, who refused to screen “The Passion” on his circuit. Karmitz called the film anti-Semitic and an instrument of fascist propaganda.
Bursztejn said he “didn’t see how a film that opened on 500 screens was in any way threatened.”
“In fact,” he continued in a press release, “in choosing a date at the last minute on such a large number of screens, the distributor of this film prematurely shut out French and European works that had been programmed for a long time to open on that day.”
Bursztejn’s remarks echoed those of producer Alain Goldman, who quit last week.
“The communique supposed that the film’s freedom of expression was in danger, which was certainly not the case because it opened on 500 screens and without any kind of violence,” Goldman told Daily Variety at the time.
Bursztejn, who has produced more than a dozen films, including “The Oak,” “The Perfect Circle” and “Betrayal,” said he “regretted the decisions that sidelined the producers from their fight for greater pluralism, total financial access for everyone and a real defense of cinema and the liberty to exercise it.”
Pic has grossed more than $9 million in its three weeks on French soil.