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A Swank Passover

While Jews everywhere are dipping their pinkies in kosher wine and chanting the names of the plagues that befell the Pharaoh and his people, multiplexes nationwide will be offering Hollywood’s latest twist on the story. “The Reaping,” starring Hilary Swank as a skeptic investigating an outbreak of plagues in a small Southern town, opens March 30 — three days before the first night of Passover.

Swank’s character, Katherine Winter, is a former Christian missionary who renounces her faith after the death of her family and devotes her life to scientifically disproving religious phenomena. When she arrives in Haven, La., to find a river of blood and a sky full of locusts, however, her atheism is put to the test.

Synchronicity with Passover notwithstanding, “The Reaping” has a decidedly Christian bent; its trailer (available at thereapingmovie.warnerbros.com) includes such images as a dangling cross pendant, a priest and a straw-hat wearing man, who, in a Southern drawl, says menacingly, “I understand you’re not much of a Bible reader… some folks just don’t want to go to heaven.” The movie’s tagline: “Evil has a savior.”

This is not the first time that Tinseltown has rolled out a new release with ties to what Jews are reading; “Babel,” starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, was released immediately before the Sabbath when the Torah portion containing the story of the Tower of Babel was read. Although at the time, Paramount executives told the Forward that the release date was a coincidence, the film’s recent nomination for a best picture Oscar would seem to indicate that they might have been on to something.

As for “The Reaping,” Warner Bros. publicist Peter Dangerfield told the Forward that the company uses “many criteria to determine all release dates, and this was the best date for this particular film. Proximity to Passover was certainly noted, but it is not the sole reason for the date.”

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