Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Anti-abortion film deserves to be shown

Unplanned, the docudrama based on the memoir by former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher), is now playing in selected Canadian theaters for a limited time. It has already played in hundreds of US theatres, controversial or not. I caught it Tuesday at Silver City in Windsor. (The theatre was almost full taking into consideration it was discount Tuesday night.) The abortion rights movement has called the film “anti-abortion propaganda” and “preaches an absolutist and extreme case against abortion.” Threats of violence have already resulted in two theatres elsewhere in Canada cancelling the film. Even the Prime Minister’s office has weighed in against Unplanned. But despite public pressure not to run the film Cineplex Entertainment has done the right thing by screening it, albeit in a very limited number of theatres in select markets, apparently where there is public demand for the movie perhaps based on pockets of the country with large conservative or Christian populations. Whatever the reason, good for them. Because showing Unplanned is nothing less than upholding the principle of freedom of speech…….Now, about the movie. It’s very funny to see the disparity between the critics’ view of Unplanned on Rotten Tomatoes – a dismal 45% approval – versus the general public’s view – a rave 91 per cent. Critics, who if not denouncing it as being “propaganda” or simplistic, disparage, from a cinematic perspective, the film with words like, “mediocre production values and subpar performances,” “bland competence,” “bland acting, boring writing.” I’ll admit the film isn’t particularly complex and has a cable TV straight-forward narrative, the acting perhaps a bit stilted at times. Nevertheless, it held my attention and the production was good enough, which is better than what I can say for a lot of “nuanced” films. Unplanned has been deeply criticized for portraying the horror of the abortion process, though it does cite speaking points of the pro-choice side, such as a woman needing to control her own body and depicting the sometimes obnoxiousness of anti-abortion protesters. The shot of a fetus fighting against being sucked out of the womb and the blood that comes with it, or the fetal tissue falling on a shower floor after a self-aborting RU-486 pill, are indeed cringing to watch. There is also the POC (nicknamed Pieces of Children) clinic room where fetuses are manually put back together to ensure no parts are left in the mother and where even clinic staff first shudder. And the alleged bureaucratic authoritarian atmosphere of Planned Parenthood comes into focus with a new quota announced for performing abortions. “Abortions are our fries and soda,” says the regional PP director (Robia Scott), a reference to the fact abortions, unlike advice on contraceptives, pays the organization’s rent. Abby is also irrationally reprimanded for speaking up in a staff meeting. To be fair, Johnson’s memoir has been challenged. But that’s no reason to ban or even threaten this movie. Let’s put the facts on the table and let the public decide what's right and wrong. Shame on those seeking otherwise.

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