Sunday, January 20, 2008

On political agendas and making movies

I have a problem with the criticism of the anti-abortion trend in recent movies.

The critics assume that the people who produced the movies necessarily had a political agenda.

Some, like the producer of Bella, did. He's pro-life, and he wanted to make a pro-life movie.

As for the rest? I don't know.

But I feel that if you're going to produce good movies, you can't have the prevailing politics of the day dictate what you the artist want to portray.

I'm not saying pro-lifers should produce pro-abortion movies. I am saying that a scriptwriter-- of whatever political persuasion-- should write what he finds interesting, or what he thinks his audience will find engaging. Of course, his moral vision (or perhaps the lack thereof) will guide the editing process and will help determine the course of the story.

That is precisely the way it should be.

It's the only way to produce quality entertainment. Agitprop is normally not entertaining (and when it is, it's not intentionally so!)

Pro-lifers should not set out to make pro-life movies. They should set out to make movies. If the story goes in a direction that requires a pro-life undertone, i.e. a pregnant woman who refuses abortion, an abortionist who quits the abortion business, etc.

So be it.

But perhaps that's the not the story the writer wants to tell. Perhaps he wants to tell the story of the woman who has an abortion, and her life doesn't go to hell in a handbasket and the rest of the story doesn't revolve around her termination.

If the scriptwriter is competent, his moral vision will guide the story during the editting process, and he won't make a pro-abortion statement. He will simply state what happened in the story. And his insinuations, his undertones, his portrayal of everything else in the movie will make the moral statement for him.

Thomas Merton said something to the effect that if you, a Catholic, wanted to write good Catholic poetry, you had to be a good poet first, and thereafter worry about the substance after. He wasn't saying don't write Catholic stuff. He was saying that if you want to engage your audience, technique and using the tools of the trade are what matter. If you're going to preach first, and think of technique second, that will only turn off your audience.

It's the same with filmaking or any other creative endeavour. You have to learn to be engaging before you can learn to be an effective spokesperson for your cause, and the way to be a spokesperson, is, ironically, not to be one. It's to simply write the story. The values will come through when you edit it to your liking.

I think the criticism against pro-life movies are really misdirected. The creator has the right and (I would even say the obligation) to make the movie he wants to make.

Not the movie political activists want him to make.

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