Mel Gibson to Direct Film About Desmond Doss

Mel Gibson, whose film credits include “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) and “Apocalypto” (2006), will direct his first movie in eight years.  “Hacksaw Ridge” will tell the story of Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss, the first and only World War II pacifist to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The film will star Andrew Garfield (of “The Amazing Spider-Man”) in the role of Doss.  The project marks a somewhat surprising turn for the director and actor most famous for his starring roles in violent action films built around themes radically opposed to the values of conscientious objection and nonviolent Christian peace witness that guided Doss and other Adventists of his generation.  Yet Gibson, a devout  Catholic, has also shown a long-standing interest in telling religious stories.  “The project looks a perfect fit for the religiously minded Gibson,” The Guardian newspaper notes. “The Oscar-winning director’s 2004 film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was an enormous box office hit, taking more than $600m worldwide after attracting huge numbers of Christian filmgoers in the US. However, the film also drew accusations of antisemitism, charges that have dogged Gibson ever since.”

The Adventist Peace Fellowship features Doss along with other Adventist peacemakers on the APF website, and during the month of May on its soon-to-be-released 2015 wall calendar.  When drafted into the military during World War II, Desmond Doss, like virtually all Seventh-day Adventists in the United States, refused to carry a weapon and entered the service as a noncombatant medic.  During basic training he faced harassment and ridicule from his fellow soldiers for his principled stand as a conscientious objector committed to saving rather than taking lives.  One of his officers sought to have him discharged on grounds of alleged mental illness.  Doss was assigned to the Pacific theatre where he distinguished himself for his remarkable valor.  In one incident, he personally carried 75 wounded men, one by one, off of a fire-swept battlefield, exposing himself repeatedly to a barrage of mortar and heavy machine-gun fire without any regard for his own safety.  In another battle, he continued to care for the injured even after being wounded by a grenade.  Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive America’s highest military award.  His Medal of Honor citation reads in part: “Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers.  His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”