Netflix to Defend Gay Jesus film in Brazil Supreme Court

January 9, 2020, 11:13 PM UTC
Netflix-The First Temptation of Christ
Screenshot from shows The First Temptation of Christ. A Brazilian judge ordered Netflix to take the controversial Christmas special down. Screenshot:

Netflix said Thursday that it had filed a complaint in Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court, a day after a judge ordered the withdrawal from the platform of a satirical film depicting Jesus as a gay man.

“We strongly support artistic expression and we’ll be fighting to defend this important principle, which goes to the heart of great storytelling,” Netflix said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the film remains available on the platform.

On Wednesday, Rio de Janeiro judge Benedicto Abicair ruled against the film following a petition by a Brazilian Catholic organization that argued the “honor of millions of Catholics” was hurt by the airing of The First Temptation of Christ. The special was produced by the Rio-based comedy group Porta dos Fundos, whose headquarters was targeted in a gasoline bomb attack on Christmas Eve.

In the complaint filed to the supreme court, Netflix’s lawyers argue that the judge’s decision amounts to censorship and has an impact “equivalent to that of the bomb used in the terrorist attack against the headquarters” of the comedy group. “It silences by means of fear and intimidation.”

The ruling has revived scrutiny on what his critics call censorship under the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro. His administration has vowed to fight “cultural Marxism” and openly supports Christian values. Several shows, plays and conferences have been canceled since Bolsonaro took office just over one year ago.

Felipe Santa Cruz, president of the Brazilian Bar Association, said the ruling went against the Brazilian constitution, which guarantees free expression in the arts, science and communication.

“Any form of censorship or threat to this hard-won freedom is a setback and cannot be accepted by society,” said Santa Cruz, who has clashed with Bolsonaro in the past.

Porta Dos Fundos said in a statement that it stands “against any act of censorship, violence, illegality, authoritarianism and all the things we no longer expected to have to repudiate in 2020. Our job is to make humor.”

In the Christmas Eve attack, several men threw gasoline bombs at the entrance of the headquarters of Porta dos Fundos. No one was injured.

One suspect, Eduardo Fauzi, celebrated the judge’s decision in a video shared by Brazilian newspaper O Globo. “Congratulations to the Brazilian judiciary system, congratulations to the Brazilian people,” Fauzi said from Russia, where he fled to after the attack.

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