How do reporters write stories on The Passion of the Christ without first seeing it?
That’s the question being asked by the Religion Newswriters Association. So far the film has mostly been screened by conservative evangelicals who have been forced to sign a confidentiality agreement that restricts viewers from making anything another other than positive statements about the film.
"We would like to see it for ourselves," said Michael Paulson, a four-year religion reporter for The Boston Globe. "Not rely on the opinions of hand-picked viewers."
Only three journalists are known to have seen the film. One of those, from the conservative Washington Times, recounted her experience:
Julia Duin, a religion reporter for The Washington Times, tells a bizarre tale of being invited to a screening at a church in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 21 by Gibson's publicist. At the event, she says she was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to reveal anything about the film, was kicked out before the film started, and eventually snuck back in to view all but 25 minutes of the movie.
"Paranoia is a good adjective to describe it," she said of the experience. "I did not enjoy it." When asked about the film, she said it was "not very complimentary to the Jewish leaders of the time, but I didn't think it was anti-Semitic. I don't think you come away from it thinking that Jews are all bad for all time."
The agreement Duin had to sign stated that "'The Passion of the Christ,' is a work in progress, not yet ready for public scrutiny." It also required screeners to agree to "hold confidential my exposure, knowledge and opinions of the film and the question and answer session with Mr. Gibson."
The statement added that a media embargo for reviews and articles about the film's contents would be in effect until the week the film opens, but "pastors and church leaders are free to speak out in support of the movie and your opinions resulting from today's experience and exposure to this project."
What is Gibson trying to hide? You can read all my updates on the film by clicking here.