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The Passion Of The Christ Goes International

Gibson's "Passion" makes its debut worldwide, May, 2004

 A Philippine student shows a pirated DVD copy of The Passion of the Christ, which opened in local theaters, March 31, 2004. (Photo: Joel Nito/AFP-Getty Images)
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ has provoked a storm of controversy, criticism, and has grossed $368 million in the U.S to date. Worldpress.org takes a look at how the movie is doing globally.

Saudi Arabia: Where expressions of any religion other than Islam is forbidden, "pirated copies of the film on DVD have been selling like hotcakes on the black market," according to Arab News.

Qatar: The film has been showing three times a day in Doha. “We submitted The Passion of the Christ to the censorship committee, which had no objection to its screening” Abdul Rahman Mohsen, the director general of a private Qatari cinema company told Gulf News. The censorship committee may preview and edit scenes or images depicting prophets from the holy books, although The Passion has been released in its integral version.

Mexico: The government slapped an adults-only C rating on the film, which restricts anyone under 18 from viewing it. Many parents are apparently smuggling children into theatres, regardless of the rating. The C rating could have serious commercial implications for The Passion. Tens of thousands of tickets have already been sold, and theaters will have to turn away anyone under 18.

Nigeria: The film is doing well on the streets of Lagos, though most of the CD's available are pirated copies from Indonesia.  On May 7, The Passion made its official debut to a select audience of decision makers in the country. 

Iran: According to Middle East Online, Gibson stands to make a fortune on his controversial story about the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life, but the ticket sales at the opening night of The Passion at Tehran’s upscale Farhang Cinema hardly covers costs. It seems as if just about everyone who showed up only did so because they couldn’t get tickets next door to see Marmoulak, the story of a thief-turned-mullah, which is a raging success.

China: The government has reportedly banned the film due to its spiritual nature. But an avalanche of English-language pirated copies of the film is spreading across China, as many young are taking great pains to see the film. The Passion opened at the beginning of April in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, but the Hong Kong media affirms the film is unlikely to be shown in Mainland China.

Israel: BBC News reported that Israeli distributors turned down the film because of the controversy and concern that they would not recoup their investment. An art house cinema in Tel Aviv will show the movie within three months. The film will be followed by a post-screening seminar to examine the depiction of Jesus. Pirated copies of the film have been circulating in Jerusalem. During Easter, there were nightly private showings in East Jerusalem hotels, where most of the Christian Arab population lives.

Zambia: According to The Times of Zambia, the film has been showing before sell-out crowds at the Arcades cinema for the last two months. Over 30,000 people have seen the movie so far, many of them visiting the cinema over the Easter period. The Times also reported that the authorized dealers of the movie were investigating reports of pirated tapes. Zambia has stiff anti-piracy laws and an investigation is underway to determine where the videotapes were being made.

France: The film opened on March 31, amid an avalanche of controversy, having been banned from an independent cinema chain, and triumphing in a court case, presented by three brothers, who sought to ban it completely. Weekly magazine, Nouvel Observateur, felt it was “undoubtedly the most dangerous and most violent interpretation ever made” while Le Monde felt the film’s message formed “part of the worst fundamentalist trends of the modern world.” Audiences, thus far, have greeted the film with a mixed reaction, but people are going to see it.

Jordan: The film made its debut in Amman on March 16, with nearly 1,000 Christians and Muslims flocking to see The Passion at the Grand Theater’s opening.

Palestinian Occupied Territories: According to Al-Jazeera, The Passion is the rage among Palestinians curious about complaints by Jews that the film is anti-Semitic. The film has outsold all other pirated videos, including Matrix Revolutions and The Last Samurai.

Russia: The film officially opened in Moscow on April 7, and began regular showings in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The film will soon reach movie theaters in 40 Russian regions according to the film’s distributor, Central Partnership. “The film has overcome [my] prejudices and doubts,” said Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, rector of Moscow University’s St. Tatiana Chapel, in an interview published in Izvestia. “I had not expected that such a profound and sincere return to the foundations of our faith would be possible in Western society. I think that ‘The Passion of the Christ’ has already become a fact not of cinema history, but of the religious history of Christianity.”

Kuwait: The government bans any movies depicting any of the prophets recognized by Islam, but one of its top Shiite clerics, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Mehri, has urged an exception. The government has not yet made a decision on his call.

Italy: With a thumbs-up from a Catholic Church association, the Pope’s endorsement of Jim Caviezel, a G rating, and high demand, the film opened on 650 screens, roughly one-third of Italy’s 2,000. Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica criticized the film for its violence. Parents’ groups were outraged when The Passion received a G rating. The film was rated R in the U.S.

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