Mel Gibson's much-hyped movie account of the death of Jesus Christ has come up against competition from a less controversial film on the same subject.

Gibson's The Passion has sparked fury from religious campaigners, who claim its depiction of Jews makes it anti-Semitic, and now the film has a rival in the shape of THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN.

The $20 million (GBP12.5 million) British/Canadian production is a word-for-word recreation of that gospel, taken from the AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY's GOOD NEWS BIBLE edition.

The movie played to sold out audiences at the Canada's TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL, and has managed to evade the controversy that has dogged Gibson's effort.

The VANCOUVER SUN newspaper reports, "Like the controversial Mel Gibson film, it shows how Jewish leaders at the time handed Jesus over to PONTIUS PILATE and demanded that He be crucified, however, it tries to sidestep the inflammatory question of guilt by talking about 'the Jewish authorities' rather than 'the Jews'.

"It also comes with an introductory explanation, written by the religious advisers, that tells viewers Jesus and his followers were all Jewish and that crucifixion was a Roman punishment, not sanctioned by Jewish law."

24/09/2003 17:40