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Mel Gibson Festival Award Draws Fire From Czech Jews

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July 3 (Bloomberg) -- The Czech Jewish community protested against a decision by the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival to give Mel Gibson its top award for lifetime achievement, saying his work includes anti-Semitic views.

The 58 year-old actor and director will receive a Crystal Globe during the state-sponsored festival’s opening on July 4, according to organizers. The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic objected to the award, saying Gibson’s 2004 movie the “Passion of the Christ” portrays Jews as “evil and blood-thirsty,” it said in a letter to the festival.

“By granting this award, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival becomes another of the very arguable platforms that are gradually changing the atmosphere of our country from a traditional, relatively tolerant society” into one “where space is given to hostility, xenophobia, and anti-Semitic ideas,” the Federation said in the letter on its website.

The Karlovy Vary Festival acknowledged receiving the letter and said it respected its opinions.

“The award is to recognize Gibson’s filmmaking skills and his career,” festival spokeswoman Uljana Donatova said by phone. “We don’t feel that we’re entitled to comment on the rest. The Passion of the Christ won’t be screened at the festival.”

Gibson rose to international fame with the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon films and won Oscars in 1995 for best picture and best director for “Braveheart.” A devout Catholic, he sparked a controversy in 2006 when he was arrested for drunk driving in Malibu, California and made anti-Semitic remarks to a Jewish police officer.

He apologized after the arrest for what he said were “vitriolic and harmful words,” and after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge was sentenced to three years’ probation. A publicist for Gibson was unavailable for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lenka Ponikelska in Prague at lponikelska1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net Michael Winfrey, Paul Abelsky

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