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in Filmmaking
on Dec 5, 2006

Though many in Hollywood publicly (and privately) swore they’d never work with Mel Gibson or see his movies again, with his latest violent epic Apocalypto set to hit over 2,000 screens this weekend, can a good movie wipe the slate? Can positive reviews from Variety and Rolling Stone — with more sure to come and possibly Oscar buzz — erase Gibson’s hateful words?

Sharon Waxman examines this question in The New York Times today.

An excerpt:

The problem posed by Mr. Gibson touches on an age-old question of whether an artist’s personal behavior ought to be a factor in judging his or her work.

The question is not a new one even in the brief history of cinema, which includes people like D. W. Griffith, the visionary feature director whose work fed racist stereotypes; Leni Riefenstahl, whose ground-breaking talent served Nazi Germany; or Roman Polanski, who in 1977 pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor and then fled the country, which did not prevent him from winning the Oscar for best director in 2003 for “The Pianist.”

As Richard Schickel writes in the Dec. 11 issue of Time magazine, “Gibson is a primitive all right, but so were Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith, and somehow we survived their idiocies.”

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