Montreal-based Equinoxe Films has picked up Canadian rightsin all media to Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ.

Produced by Gibson's Icon Productions, the film is scheduledfor a release coincidental with Newmarket Films' wide US release on Feb. 25,2004 - Ash Wednesday according to the Christian calendar.

The film, which aims to be a realistic depiction of the last 12 hours in thelife of Jesus Christ and is filmed in Latin and Aramaic, has already generatedcontroversy amongst biblical scholars and has taken heat in some US mediaquarters for perceived anti-Semitism.

Directed and co-written by Gibson, it stars James Caviezel (The Thin Red Line) as Jesus; Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern (Ulysses'Gaze) as his mother, Mary; and Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded, Irreversible)as Mary Magdalene.

The Canadian deal was negotiated by Equinoxe vicepresident of distribution Yves Dion and by Nick Hill, chief executive officerof the Icon UK Group.

In a statement, Dion said, "The Passion Of The Christ is a monumental achievement in filmmaking, and weare honoured that Icon has entrusted Equinoxe Films to distribute it in Canada.

"Our relationship with Icon began nearly a year ago whenthey acquired the rights to Mambo Italiano forthe UK and Australia. We are very pleased to be working with them on therelease of their film, and will ensure that it receives the best possibledistribution in Canada."