Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Lake of Fire": a tough, and thorough, documentary on the abortion debate and "pro-life" movement; where is "South Dakota"now?

Lake of Fire” (2006), by Tony Kaye, presents both sides of the abortion debate in searing black and white.  The title of the film puts the absolutist position of the religious right in metaphorical terms, making the color-free photography of all the news footage even more ironic. The movie often spells the title (and names of speakers) upside down, rotating this tile around the "O" in the central preposition "of".  
At the time of filming, South Dakota’s bill HR 1215 was in controversy, threatening to ban almost all abortion despite Roe v. Wade.  The film opens with mention of that issue.  See the 2006 Time essay by Nancy Gibbs here
I could say, as a gay male, that this issue has nothing to do with me, but then it means everything. The film open depicts the religious right bringing in other issues, like homosexuality, as if they were logically related anyway.  Absolute obedience to God, some demand.  Or perhaps there is the idea that homosexuality, at some broader level, somehow denies the importance of future life, or even of some less competitive current life.  Toward the end of the film, some observers, including Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky, enrich their previous commentary by noting that one can imagine a moral continuum between deliberate refusal to procreate, to mastubatory sex, to contraception, finally to abortion.  The unborn life is human life, but it is unable to know anything or make decisions or want to live.  The mothers is still to be in control of the moral universe, however biological, within her own body.  A male never completely understands.  Actually, some physicists believe that the “soul” develops gradually during childhood into adolescence (see Book review, Hofstadter, June 1, 2013). 
The movie traces some of the personal history of Roe v. Wade plaintiff Norma McCorvey, who said she lived in fear holed up in Dallas for 13 years, and then had a change of heart after being convinced that her activism led to the death of 35 million unborn children.  She gives some details of life in Dallas, along Greenville and McKinney avenues, and even her work in gay bars (probably on Cedar Springs).
The film shows at least two abortions, somewhat late in term, in graphic detail.  In one case, the unborn’s parts are laid out on full tray, and torn apart.  The look frog-like. 
The film, especially in its extensive middle section (it runs 152 minutes) covers the belief system of the most radical element of the anti-abortion movement, including its tactics and use of intimidation and violence.  There is a sequence where a fatal attack on a clinic in Brookline, MA is reconstructed. Progressives, says one speaker, don’t want to admit that these tactics often work.  Sometimes they would buy property next to a clinic so they could harass it and its visitors.  One woman describes some anti-abortionists as unattached men who get pleasure out of dominating women politically if they aren’t successful in marriage directly.  Politically, the extreme right has used gerrymandering and cunning tactics to gain local control. 
The filmmaker does interview Randall Terry, and also convicted killer Salvi, who says he takes all authority from the Pope. 
It also covers the story of Eric Rudolf, the Olympic Park bomber in Atlanta (1996), who also threatened a gay club as well as abortion clinics.  Wikipedia describes Rudolf’s values as typical of right wing religious extremists, with an emphasis on the “family hearth” and “complementarianism”, almost like those of a Christian Taliban.
There’s one curious segment that looks like it was filmed in downtown Dallas in black and white, going nowhere.  It could come out of a horror film.
There’s not a lot on YouTube.
The film was distributed by ThinkFilm and Image.  There is a full movie version free on YouTine from “AtheistClone”.  I watched the Netflix DVD. See the related film "After Tiller" reviewed here Nov. 4.  
The mention of the bill in South Dakota (followed by a “waiting period” law in 2011) would call attention to the film “South Dakota” by  Bruce Isaacson, from LionHeart Movies.  IMDB says the film was to be available in late 2013 but it appears to have been shot in 2010, and is written as a drama on the abortion issue, apparently related to the legal climate in that state.  (The title sounds ironic, given the success of “Nebraska”, reviewed here Nov. 23).  The movie has a Facebook page here and people are writing comments asking when the film will be available.  Does the controversy scare way distributors and multiplex chains?  Actor Reid Ewing mentions it briefly on a short TMZ YouTube video (link) .  When will we see this film? 
First picture:, above downtown Dallas, TX, near First Baptist Church, my picture, Nov. 2011.  Below: July 4, 2013 on mall in Washington DC, fireworks does look like a mushroom cloud in this shot.  

Update: The New York Times ran an article by Michael Sieply about the short-lived distributor ThinkFilm, which went under in 2008, on January 5, 2014, here

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