"Bella" And The Pro-Life Film Trend
In a political act loaded with cultural symbolism, Senator Hillary Clinton endorsed an effort to earmark a million taxpayer dollars for a museum in Bethel, New York celebrating the circus of 1969, the Woodstock music festival. Other senators smelled the pork and successfully voted to remove it.
The tie-dyed, drug-soaked post-war babies that populated that muddy plain are now approaching Social Security age, and the aging hippies that made their way into the establishment want to imbue the notorious excesses of their youth with respectability. The New York Times said the Bethel complex would be "what Cooperstown is to baseball" - a hippie Hall of Fame.
I liked that music. I still do. Then as now, I simply ignored the cultural and political messages. Many others didn't.
The bohemian worldview of Woodstock Nation is in some ways dominant, and in some ways passe in our popular culture. Hallucinogenic drugs are no longer the rage, but the "free love" spirit of "if it feels good, do it" still runs strong, especially in our entertainment world. And yet, burbling beneath a noisy culture of sexual excess and self-love, there's a quiet undercurrent in our movies carrying subtle, and even obvious pro-life themes.
Last Christmas, there was "Children of Men," a dark science-fiction look into England, twenty years from now, where human fertility has vanished. One pregnant woman becomes a damsel in grave danger, and then with the birth of her child, a beacon of hope.
Six months later, the small movie "Waitress" followed a lonely waitress with a good-for-nothing husband who decides (against Tinseltown's grain) to keep her baby. Summer brought the big, crude sex comedy "Knocked Up," a tale of a beautiful blonde who improbably mates with an overweight schlub, a man the world would say is "not in her league." But underneath the crudity, another pro-life story emerges: not only does she keep the baby, she tries to build a marriage and family.
Those two movies were close enough together to represent a tiny trend - and film critics denounced it as an affront to their "pro-choice" beliefs. The women chose life, and that was wrong. To them, it smelled of fear and corner-cutting. They noted the word "abortion" wasn't used in the scripts. (But couldn't pro-lifers make the same complaint?)
It showed "the studios' terror at giving offense," whined the Boston Globe. "Hollywood is No-Choice," was the disgusted headline in The New York Times. "Both movies go out of their way to sidestep real life," since "two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion." But what about the one-third of "unwanted" pregnancies in real life that result in real life? They cannot be celebrated?
Apparently not. "I think it's shocking that the subject of abortion as a choice has been so eliminated from the discussion," said one alarmed feminist to The Washington Post. This is quite absurd, since modern movies like "The Cider House Rules" and "Vera Drake" celebrated wise and sympathetic abortionists.
Now comes the little movie "Bella," which won the People's Choice award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. Once again, a single waitress finds herself pregnant, feels that abortion is her only way out, until she spends a day with a man who's just lost his soccer-star career. In that one day together, their lives are changed forever, and she decides to carry her baby to term. Oh, boy. Here we go again. The word "abortion" is never mentioned in the movie.
Worse yet for the Hollywood elite, the executive producer of "Bella" is Steve McEveety, who was also executive producer of "The Passion of The Christ." He says as "The Passion" showed us how to die, "Bella" shows us how to live.
Movie critics will probably hate it, since it doesn't even have oodles of sex and profanity in it to keep them entertained. Variety already booed: "Manipulative pic trades in fairy-tale views of New York life alongside briefly sustained emotional confessions."
The makers of "Bella" are different that the average Hollywood moviemakers. They have refused projects they didn't feel were uplifting. Their religious convictions had led to a desire to make redeeming films. Their company is named Metanoia Films, after the Greek word for "conversion" or "repentance." Those are not Hollywood words. But they are words that can resonate all over the Main Streets of America.
So what does Main Street think of "Bella"? Preview audiences repeatedly have given it standing ovations.