The story of Judah Maccabee, one of the greatest warrior heroes in Jewish history, could make a great movie. He led the first revolt against religious oppression in 167 BCE. His victory is celebrated by Jews around the world each year at Hannukah.
One of the most successful directors in Hollywood is behind the project, someone whose previous film about a rebellion was an Oscar-winner. But that director is Mel Gibson, whose anti-Semitic tirade when he was arrested for drunk driving and portrayal of the ancient Jews in his controversial “The Passion of the Christ” suggests that he may not be the person to tell this story. Gibson has said repeatedly that this is a movie he wants to make. But his choice of screenwriter is also sure to raise concerns. It is Joe Eszterhas of “Basic Instinct,” “Flashdance,” and “Showgirls.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement: “We would have hoped that Warner Bros. could have found someone better than Mel Gibson to direct or perhaps even star in a film on the life of the Jewish historical icon Judah Maccabee. As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better.” They have asked Warner Brothers to “reconsider” Gibson’s involvement.
I am skeptical about Gibson’s ability to tell this story, not because I think he will promote stereotypes or bigotry but because I think his increasing fascination with anger and violence will give the story the wrong focus. I hope I’m wrong.