Acropolis museum backs down in Costa-Gavras film row

Visitors look at the temple of the Parthenon from inside the new Acropolis museum in Athens June 21, 2009. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s new Acropolis museum on Tuesday reversed a decision to cut a short film by director Costa Gavras to appease the powerful Greek Orthodox Church, after a public outcry.

Just weeks after its opening, protesters had picketed the museum and a rights group had threatened to take it to court for curtailing freedom of expression after officials said they would drop some scenes from the animated film.

“The informative film will continue to be shown,” museum director Dimitris Pantermalis said in a statement.

The 1 minute and 40 second film, which informs visitors about the history of the 5th century BC Parthenon temple and depicts early Christians damaging the monument, was made by the Greek-born filmmaker, famous for movies such as the Oscar-winning “Z” and “Missing.”

It shows figures in long robes hacking at the Parthenon. Although early Christians tore down statues and temples in an effort to eradicate paganism, Greece’s Orthodox Church, which officially represents more than 90 percent of the 11 million population, took offence at the images.

“Mr. Gavras clarified that in these scenes he did not show or mean to say that the destruction was done by priests but by people of that time,” Pantermalis said.

Greek media had said the Church was angry with the museum but there was no official statement by the Holy Synod.

Gavras had strongly protested against any change to his film, saying he wanted his name removed from it if it was cut.

Reporting Dina Kyriakidou, editing by Patrick Graham