Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” has opened to solid and very good reviews at the Venice Film Festival.
But at today’s packed press conference, not a single person asked Gibson about his ten years of scandals. “Hacksaw Ridge” is set in World War II, and has a pacifist for a hero. Andrew Garfield, who is Jewish, is the star of the movie and gets Oscar like plaudits. But no one in the press conference asked Mel or Garfield about Gibson’s famous 2006 statements when he was pulled for drunk driving in Malibu. Gibson told Jewish police officer Jame Mee: “F— the Jews. The Jews are responsible for starting all the wars in the world.”
This came on top of the news that Gibson had built and operates Holy Family Catholic church in Agoura Hills, California— now with a tax free foundation worth $70 million–that disavows Catholic church policy, is not part of any dioceses, and blames Jews for the death of Jesus Christ. Also, Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, is an avowed Holocaust denier.
The Holocaust occurred, of course, during the World War II that Gibson is now sentimentalizing in “Hacksaw Ridge.” Gibson has never apologized for his statements, or disavowed his father. And just to be clear, he underwrites a church whose parishioners support the same views. I doubt that Garfield, whose family changed their name from Garfinkel, would be welcome there.
The Gibson-“Hacksaw Ridge” debate parallels that of Nate Parker, the director of “Birth of a Nation.” Parker was acquitted in 1991 of rape, yet the story of that case has now been raised as the well reviewed movie is getting ready for release. The big Oscar debate of 2016 will be how to weigh the actions of these directors vs. their movies. Are we supposed to separate the man from his art? And how does the director’s personal actions color the way we look at the movies?
In the case of Gibson, that’s a tough one to call. But the real tests will come when American press come face to face with Gibson? Will be there a complete amnesia about what has gone on for the last decade? Will junket press act as if none of this has happened, based on access given to them by publicists? This will be a curious moment for the vast numbers from places like “ET,” “Access Hollywood,” and “Extra,” among others. We’re no longer talking about ‘what are you wearing?’ And that may cause a scuffle or two.
One last thing: please disregard any mumbo jumbo from navel gazing movie reviewers who suggest that Gibson is somehow commenting on his personal situation in “Hacksaw.” The only statement from Gibson that can be accepted are blatant and specific– that he apologizes to Mee and to everyone, all Jews, and that he disavows the church he built and supports. I don’t want to hear that people are “reading into” the movie.