Gibson movie sparks passion in the valley | AspenTimes.com

Gibson movie sparks passion in the valley

Perhaps Mel Gibson’s controversial and violent new movie, “The Passion of Christ,” is exactly what’s needed to spread an important message from Jesus Christ.

At least Rev. Marie Gasau of the Basalt Community Methodist Church has high hopes that the $25 million movie won’t follow the typical Hollywood formula of using violence to sell tickets. Instead, she hopes the violence graphically depicted by Gibson in the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ will send a message of peace.

“If that’s what the movie gets across, he’ll accomplish what a lot of preachers haven’t been able to do,” said Gasau.

The movie has even inspired Christians of several denominations to take the unusual step of buying advance tickets as a group before it opens on Feb. 25. That is Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Lent period.

Movieland in El Jebel typically sells advance tickets for blockbuster movies to individuals. The difference now is the advance purchases are being made by religious groups, according to manager Julie Martellino. She anticipates strong attendance at the movie starting on Wednesday.

Gasau’s made arrangements to take high schoolers who attend the Basalt Methodist Church to a screening on the first Saturday in March. She’s cleared the plan with parents because the movie is supposedly very violent when dealing with the treatment of Jesus in his final hours.

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Rev. Tom Bradtke, the priest at St. Vincent and St. Mary’s of the Crown Catholic churches in Basalt and Carbondale, initially planned to reserve 50 tickets for showings of the movie on Feb. 28 and 29. The response was so overwhelming that Father Tom, as he’s known, scrambled to buy more. “Between the two parishes we purchased 140 tickets,” he said.

In a church bulletin, Father Tom told his flocks, “It has received great reviews by people who have seen advance showings, and Bishops and others have encouraged all Christians to attend it.”

Father Tom said it’s appropriate for the movie to be released at the beginning of Lent, so people can reflect on the sacrifices made by Christ.

Rev. Mike O’Brien of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Aspen also has high hopes for the movie at the start of Lent. “We’re walking with Christ as he’s walking to Calvary,” said Rev. O’Brien, referring to the Jerusalem hill where Christ was crucified.

St. Mary’s bought out the auditorium for a showing at Stage Three theater in Aspen on Sunday, March 7. O’Brien expects 145 attendees for the afternoon showing, and he’s scheduled a reception at the church to discuss the movie right after the screening.

O’Brien believes Gibson’s movie has struck a chord with people because of its “fidelity to the Gospel.”

Gibson has received some criticism for reigniting debate about the role of Jews in the killing of Christ.

Father Tom, though, will reserve judgment until he sees the movie. “There are too many people making observations without seeing it first,” he said.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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