Declaring himself “too smart to answer a question like that,” Steven Spielberg on Wednesday deftly sidestepped the controversy surrounding fellow filmmaker Mel Gibson’s box office smash, “The Passion of the Christ,” which has been accused of anti-semitism.
He said he had yet to see the film, which depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life. In its first week, it grossed more than $125 million at the domestic box office.
“I certainly am not going to comment based on circumstantial evidence from what I’ve been hearing and feeling in the last seven or eight days,” Spielberg said at a news conference to promote the DVD release of his Oscar-winning Holocaust epic “Schindler’s List.”
“I think it’s much too important, and I’m really too smart to answer a question like that.
“When I do see the film, the first person who will hear from me will be Mel Gibson and no one else,” he added.
Jewish groups have said “Passion” resurrects old claims that the Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus. Gibson’s father, Hutton, a traditionalist Catholic, has said much of the Holocaust was fiction.
Flanked by Holocaust survivors, Los Angeles teens and many of the film’s stars, including Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz and Caroline Goodall, Spielberg said he hoped “Schindler’s List” would prove to Holocaust deniers that the murder of 6 million Jews did occur and that it would help educate children to prevent history from repeating itself.
The DVD will include an 11-minute clip explaining the work of Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which is dedicated to archiving the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, and a 77-minute documentary, “Voices From the List,” which presents never-before-seen commentaries from Schindler survivors.
“There are Holocaust deniers who are so stuck in their hatred for Jews that neither 'Schindler’s List’ nor the Shoah Foundation will be able to convince them that 6 million murders actually occurred, but still we must try to convince them,” Spielberg said.
Spielberg said he delayed the release of the DVD in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of both the film and the foundation, which has collected more than 52,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies in 56 countries. Half of that footage has been digitally indexed so that it can be accessed and seen worldwide.
Spielberg escorted several Holocaust survivors and some of the stars and filmmakers involved in the making of “Schindler’s List” on a tour of the Shoah Foundation’s offices. Among them was survivor Leon Leyson, who told Spielberg there was no doubt in his mind that the director revived the history of the Holocaust just as it was headed into “oblivion.”
Survivor Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig told the director, “Schindler saved us, but you gave us our second life.”
Spielberg said that in the decade since the release of “Schindler’s List,” the world has become a “very sad place again,” which shows that people “don’t really learn that much from history, and they need to.”