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Dogma draws protests

Will a controversial religious movie get protested? Is the Pope Catholic?

Hundreds of Catholic protesters staged a rally Monday over Kevin Smith's supposedly sacrilegious film Dogma. None of the protesters admitted to having seen the film, however. Singing, praying, and holding aloft placards that read, "Stop blasphemy," the demonstrators gathered outside the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where Dogma was shown as part of the prestigious New York Film Festival. In the indie flick, cutie pies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck play two fallen angels who are scheming to get back into heaven. Directed by Chasing Amy director Kevin Smith, the film also stars Linda Fiorentino and Salma Hayek, as well as comedian Chris Rock as a hitherto unknown 13th apostle. Dogma starts a theatrical run Nov. 12. "We are here to tell people that we're looking for more respect and love, and less criticizing of each other's faith," said Bev Santini of Garden City, N.Y. "We're praying for Michael Eisner and Disney and Miramax so that they stop ridiculing Christians and Catholics in the world." Disney is Miramax's parent company, but the film is being released by Lions Gate. Miramax Films' Bob and Harvey Weinstein bought Dogmafrom Miramax, which backed the film's production, and Lions Gate agreed to distribute it. Lions Gate co-president Mark Urman has previously told the New York Post, "I believe genuinely that the film does not mean to hold any people up to ridicule because of their religion." Smith, who calls himself a devout Catholic, has said, "I never thought it was anything but a pro-faith, pro-Catholic, spiritually uplifting dick-and-fart-joke movie." Meanwhile, people who've actually seen the movie, including New York Times critic Janet Maslin are praising the film. Maslin writes, "Yes, Mr. Smith enjoys shock value, but this time he makes it mercilessly funny and places it in the context of an obviously devout, enlightened parable." Also weighing in on the plus side is Mr. Showbiz contributor and Film Comment editor Richard Jameson, who calls the film "my favorite movie of the year." Jameson attended the premiere, describing the protesters as "a bunch of humorless Catholics who will never see the movie (or be capable, in their puny starched lives, of anything like its complex passion for the religion they assume it trashes)." The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, which joined the Catholic League and others at Monday's rally, said in fliers that Dogma "mocks everything we hold sacred - God, the Church, the Mass, and Mary's virginity. It condones what we condemn - murder, obscenity, violence, profanity, drugs, drunkenness, and rebellion!" Reuters contributed to this story.