‘Higher Ground’ and more
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Faith-offending films

‘Higher Ground’ and more
By Patrick Kevin Day and Jevon Phillips,
Los Angeles Times


Hollywood and organized religion seem to be in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. Just when the ire generated by one film has died down, anger from a different denomination flames up for a different studio.

In 2007, Catholic groups were up in arms over New Line Cinema’s “The Golden Compass.” By late spring of 2008, it was a Hindu group battling Paramount pictures over the perceived slighting of their faith in the Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru.”

Meanwhile, Hollywood is rediscovering religion with 2011 films like “Machine Gun Preacher,” “Higher Ground,” “Courageous” and more. Will these films face the same criticism as their predecessors? Maybe, but just about every world religion has been up in arms over a movie. Here are some of them. (Associated Press)
By Patrick Kevin Day and Jevon Phillips,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers


Hollywood and organized religion seem to be in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. Just when the ire generated by one film has died down, anger from a different denomination flames up for a different studio.

In 2007, Catholic groups were up in arms over New Line Cinema’s “The Golden Compass.” By late spring of 2008, it was a Hindu group battling Paramount pictures over the perceived slighting of the Hindu faith in the Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru.”

Meanwhile, “Falling” (pictured), the first post-Mormon film from writer-director Richard Dutcher, faced an uncertain reception from the community that once embraced his films.

“Falling,” “The Golden Compass” and “The Love Guru” are far from the first films to be greeted with stern disapproval from the faithful. In fact, just about every world religion has been up in arms over a movie. Here are some of them. ()
‘Angels and Demons’
Who was offended? Catholics What was their beef? Vatican City spokesman Father Marco Fibbi said that they had turned down the request by Ron Howard to shoot the film within Vatican City without even looking at the script. Because the book was written by Dan Brown -- the guy who brought us “The Da Vinci Code” -- the same reservartions and rejections apply. “Angels and Demons” peddles a type of fantasy that damages our common religious beliefs, just like The Da Vinci Code did,” he added. (Zade Rosenthal / Columbia Pictures)
Who was offended? Lots of red-blooded Americans, least of all a certain Mr. Sean Penn What was their beef? Trey Parker and Matt Stone are known as rabble-rousers, but even with their “South Park” antics, their over-the-top portrayal of war, dictators, puppet sex and some people’s indifference toward voting -- especially so soon after 9/11 -- raised the ire of the noted Hollywood activist and others. Penn: “No one’s ignorance, including a couple of hip cross-dressers, is an excuse.” Ooo. Burn. ()
Who was offended? Disability groups. What was their beef? It was supposed to be a fake war that turned into a real one in the movie, and off screen. One speech, or one word really, stirred up a storm of protests by advocates of people with disabilities. “Retard” was bad enough, but it was followed by “moron,” “imbecile” and “dumb.” “When I heard about it, I felt really hurt inside,” Special Olympics global messenger Dustin Plunkett said. “I cannot believe a writer could write something like that.” ()
‘The Love Guru’
Who was offended? Hindus What was their beef? A Nevada-based Hindu leader kicked off the protests against this film when the first trailers began playing in the spring. But in a twist on the normal offend-and-boycott cycle, another Hindu group, Navya Shastra, launched an opposition to the protests against the movie. Their argument was that years of hypersensitivity had resulted in a public turned off to the religion and that educated people could draw their own distinction between comedy and the actual religion. What they didn’t expect was that educated people could also tell the difference between a good movie and a bad one. “Love Guru” bombed with critics and audiences. (George Kraychyk / Paramount Pictures)
‘The Golden Compass’
Who was offended? Catholics What was their beef? Catholic League President Bill Donohue called for a boycott of the fantasy film, based on the books by Philip Pullman, months before the film’s premiere. Donohue was offended by the books’ harsh criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and their supposed pro-atheism message. Though director Chris Weitz tried to de-emphasize the source material’s more controversial aspects, the outrage continued right up until the film’s release. Audiences stayed away in droves, though whether it was because of the religious controversy or the fact that the movie received horrible reviews is a matter of debate. (Laurie Sparham / New Line Cinema)
‘The Da Vinci Code’
Who was offended? Catholics What was their beef? The Vatican, along with several Catholic groups around the world, objected strongly to the assertions made in the book and movie about the motivations of the Catholic Church in allegedly covering up a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Additionally, the Catholic order of Opus Dei denounced the movie’s depiction of it in the character of a murderous albino monk (Paul Bettany, pictured). All the ruffled feathers didn’t stop the film from raking in $758 million worldwide. (Simon Mein / Columbia Pictures)
‘The Passion of the Christ’
Who was offended? Jews What was their beef? Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was one of the biggest hits of 2004. Its stark images of Jesus’ crucifixion and the violence toward him, as well as villainous portrayals of many Jewish people, created a religious furor. Rabbis around the world said the film had the potential to transmit potent negative images, attitudes, stereotypes and caricatures about Jews and Judaism. (Philippe Antonello / Associated Press)
‘September Dawn’
Who was offended? Mormons What was their beef? “September Dawn” is described as a love story set against the backdrop of a 19th century massacre of a wagon train of Utah settlers. Though the massacre is documented, Mormons decry the portrayal of church members as killers. Star Jon Voight denied the film was an attack on the church or on Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon who ended his presidential bid in February. (Black Diamond Pictures)
‘Water’
Who was offended? Hindus What was their beef? Part of an elemental trilogy that included “Fire” and “Earth,” Deepa Mehta’s “Water, " starring Lisa Ray and John Abraham (pictured), may have been the most incendiary of the three. Shooting on the film, which depicts the plight of Hindu widows, was disrupted when fundamentalists and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party staged raucous protests. (Fox Searchlight)
‘Submission’
Who was offended? Muslims What was their beef? When Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a descendent of Vincent van Gogh, released the 10-minute film “Submission,” with its criticism of violence against women in Islamic society and its images of seminude actresses with passages from the Koran displayed on their bodies, he became the target of death threats. He shrugged them off, but on the morning of Nov. 2, 2004, he was killed in the streets of Amsterdam by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch citizen who was later sentenced to life in prison. (Rick Nederstigt / AFP)
‘Hollywood Buddha’
Who was offended? Buddhists What was their beef? Director Philippe Caland’s comedy about a struggling movie producer who buys a Buddha head and finds it changes his luck so enraged Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka and Thailand that they marched on government buildings, threatening to fast -- even to the point of death -- if the movie wasn’t pulled from distribution. They were especially offended by the film’s poster, which depicts Caland sitting on top of Buddha’s head. ()
‘Bowfinger’
Who was offended? Scientologists What was their beef? The Church of Scientology has gained a reputation for being litigious in protecting its reputation. In fact, Premiere magazine reported in 1993 that the makers of the 1991 John Candy comedy “Delirious” felt heavy pressure from the church to remove a single line ribbing Scientology. “Bowfinger” screenwriter Steve Martin’s riff on the religion, called MindHead in the movie, drew a more muted response. Makers of the movie (starring Martin and Eddie Murphy, pictured) downplayed the connection to Scientology, and Scientologists kept their protests to the pages of local newspapers, criticizing reviewers who drew any comparison to Scientology. (Zade Rosenthal / Universal)
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