A life-af­firm­ing new film about abor­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Robert No­vak

An in­vited au­di­ence in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Car­los Gu­tier­rez gath­ered at the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety’s au­di­to­rium in Wash­ing­ton on Nov. 27 for a screen­ing of “Bella,” an in­de­pen­dently pro­duced fea­ture film. No mere movie, it of­fers hope for the be­lea­guered an­tiabor­tion move­ment to re­verse the po­lit­i­cal tide run­ning against it.

This was the eighth such screen­ing in Wash­ing­ton. The Nov. 27 au­di­ence re­flected the re­ac­tion in more than 100 show­ings na­tion­wide: an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for a stun­ning ex­hi­bi­tion of cin­ema art that un­ex­pect­edly won a Toronto Film Fes­ti­val award. It is no pro­pa­ganda film but a dra­matic de­pic­tion of choices fac­ing an un­mar­ried preg­nant wo­man.

“Bella,” un­known to the gen­eral pub­lic, has gen­er­ated ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion in con­ser­va­tive Catholic and other anti-abor­tion cir­cles. The prob­lem is get­ting the film in movie the­aters around the coun­try for its pub­lic pre­miere early next April. That is never easy for an in­de­pen­dent film with no box of­fice names, but the prob­lems are mag­ni­fied when its mes­sage runs counter to the so­cial mores of Hol­ly­wood.

“Bella” ar­rives in an en­vi­ron­ment that has grown bleak for en­e­mies of abor­tion. The Demo­cratic Party has be­come so much the party of abor­tion rights that of 41 fresh­men Democrats elected to the House, only three are anti-abor­tion. Pro-life forces in the House suf­fered a net loss of 13 mem­bers. That means statu­tory re­stric­tions on abor­tion, which must be re­newed by each Congress, are now in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy.

The loss of nu­mer­i­cal strength on Capi­tol Hill re­flects a pub­lic re­la­tions and po­lit­i­cal vic­tory by the abor­tion lobby. Repub­li­can politi­cians tend to give only lip ser­vice to the is­sue, typ­i­fied by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s si­lence on abor­tion. Repub­li­can can­di­dates have ac­cepted sup­port from pro-life forces — and then kept quiet about abor­tion, leav­ing the field open to pro-choice ad­vo­cates.

Thus, the anti-abor­tion move­ment sees “Bella” as prov­i­den­tial. It is en­ter­tain­ment, not pro­pa­ganda. Al­though Mon­day’s screen­ing was spon­sored by the Na­tional Coun­cil for Adop­tion, the word “adop­tion” is ut­tered only once in the film. There are no tirades against abor­tion. In­deed, it ac­knowl­edges a wo­man’s pain of car­ry­ing a baby to term only to give it up for adop­tion. In the end, how­ever, the film is a heart-wrench­ing af­fir­ma­tion of life over death.

“Bella” was con­ceived by three young Mex­i­can men — pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and lead ac­tor — who are con­ser­va­tive Catholics and want to make movies re­moved from Hol­ly­wood’s movie cul­ture of sex and vi- olence. Bankrolled by a wealthy Catholic fam­ily from Philadel­phia, they shot the film in 24 days in New York City.

The star is Ed­uardo Verastegui, a Mex­i­can heart­throb as a lead per­former in TV soap op­eras who now lives in Los An­ge­les. A de­vout Catholic, he told me he was tired of movies show­ing Lati­nos as dis­rep­utable and im­moral. He has learned to speak English in three years well enough to play the lead role mostly in English (with sub­ti­tles over the Span­ish).

It was a stretch to get “Bella” even shown at Toronto, much less win an award. “Go­ing into the fes­ti­val,” said the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, “ab­so­lutely no one, in­clud­ing the team of film­mak­ers that made ‘Bella,’ ever imag­ined it would cap­ture the Peo­ple’s Choice Award, voted on by fes­ti­val au­di­ences.”

Even with the Toronto prize, which in the past has led to Academy and Golden Globe awards, how­ever, it is hard to get the film in movie houses, and it may be neces- sary for the film­mak­ers to form a dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany. The avowed rea­son for the dif­fi­culty is in­ex­pe­ri­ence of the di­rec­tor and a cast with names unfamiliar to Amer­i­can movie­go­ers. But the film’s pro­duc­ers say the same left-wing Hol­ly­wood es­tab­lish­ment that at­tacked “The Pas­sion of The Christ” is snip­ing at “Bella,” which lacks a Mel Gib­son in sup­port.

If the Cru­ci­fix­ion in “The Pas­sion” was hard to take for nonChris­tians and some Chris­tians, “Bella” on one level is a drama with­out re­li­gious over­tones. But while the au­di­ence at Mon­day’s screen­ing was moved to tears, re­ac­tion from a com­mer­cial theater au­di­ence — in­clud­ing women who have cho­sen an abor­tion — could be dif­fer­ent. The pro-life move­ment hopes, in the ab­sence of ef­fort by sup­pos­edly pro-life politi­cians, it will point to a dif­fer­ent way to deal with an un­wanted preg­nancy.

Robert No­vak is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.