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Acropolis Museum Censors Film by Costa Gavras : Thanks to the Displeasure of the Greek Church,

Monday 27 July 2009, by siawi

Scene cut from Athens museum film after protests

By DEMETRIS NELLAS (AP) – 26 July 2009

ATHENS, Greece — A scene from an animated film shown to visitors at the new Acropolis Museum that depicts Christian priests destroying parts of the Parthenon has been deleted following protests by the Greek Orthodox Church.

The creator of the segment, Greek-born French filmmaker Constantin Costa-Gavras, has demanded that his name be taken off the film credits in protest.

“The priests used to destroy ancient temples. Now they want to remove scenes from a film,” Costa-Gavras told Greece’s Mega TV channel. “This is the kind (of censorship) that used to happen in the former Soviet Union.”

Costa-Gavras, known mainly for French-language films with political themes, such as “Z” and “State of Siege”, shared an Academy Award in 1983 for best screenplay adaptation for the English-language film “Missing,” starring Jack Lemmon, a film Costa-Gavras also directed.

Costa-Gavras’ 1-minute, 40-second segment depicting the damage done to Parthenon over the centuries — from marauding Germanic warriors in 267 A.D. to the removal of a large part of the frieze by British diplomat Lord Elgin in early 19th century — was part of a larger piece produced for the 2004 Athens Olympics and had been incorporated into a 13-minute film shown to museum visitors, narrating the history of the Parthenon from its inception to the present day.

The animated segment showed figures clad in black climbing up ladders and destroying part of the Parthenon frieze; the scene referred to well-documented episodes of destruction that took place in the early Byzantine period (5th-8th centuries A.D.), when Christians often demolished monuments and temples belonging to the old pagan era. Many parts from those temples were used to build churches. The Parthenon itself suffered some damage but was spared a worse fate by being converted into a church.

Church officials contended the film misrepresented the attitude of the Greek Orthodox Church toward Greece’s ancient heritage.

Greek media reported the segment was excised after the intervention of Culture Minister Antonis Samaras.

A Church of Greece spokesman denied there was any “formal or informal” protest lodged with the Culture ministry but said that the church’s Holy Synod took up the matter at its latest meeting on July 21.

“The issue was discussed at the meeting, but no protest was made, either in writing or orally,” said press officer Haris Konidaris.

The Holy Synod’s press release mentions that the church will “finance the research and writing of a study on the Church’s contribution to preserving the Ancient Greek heritage (monuments, texts).”

Museum director Dimitris Pantermalis acknowledged the Greek Church’s displeasure and, while he tried to minimize the importance of the episode, appeared irritated at those who objected.

“The segment that was cut was no more than 12 seconds long and the accompanying narration has been left intact,” he told the Associated Press. “The film depicted a historical fact — that some early Christians destroyed, or tried to destroy, ancient monuments, and this fact remains. ... I cannot understand those who said that (in) showing figures clad in black robes, we depicted priests. That’s what people were wearing in the Byzantine period, not trousers,” he said.

Pantermalis later released a statement defending the cuts in the film as “an effort to eliminate misunderstanding and not censorship at all.”

The Acropolis Museum, which opened on June 20, now receives an average of 11,000 visitors daily, Pantermalis said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.