Sunday, September 13, 2009

Charles Darwin film 'too controversial for religious America'

"The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments, and a passionate unwillingness to do so." -- Sam Harris


Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin's "struggle between faith and reason" as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.

Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying".

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

"That's what we're up against. In 2009. It's amazing," he said.

"The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

"It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There's still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It's quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules.

"Charles Darwin is, I suppose, the hero of the film. But we tried to make the film in a very even-handed way. Darwin wasn't saying 'kill all religion', he never said such a thing, but he is a totem for people."

Creation was developed by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, and stars Bettany's real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin's deeply religious wife, Emma. It is based on the book, Annie's Box, by Darwin's great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, and portrays the naturalist as a family man tormented by the death in 1851 of Annie, his favourite child. She is played in the film by 10-year-old newcomer Martha West, the daughter of The Wire star Dominic West.

Early reviews have raved about the film. The Hollywood Reporter said: "It would be a great shame if those with religious convictions spurned the film out of hand as they will find it even-handed and wise."

Mr Thomas, whose previous films include The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, said he hoped the reviews would help to secure a distributor. In the UK, special screenings have been set up for Christian groups.

Movieguide.org is a site that gave GI Joe 4 stars because, as they put it, it gives "A very strong moral, light Christian worldview of good vs evil, honor vs treachery, etc., with a very strong patriotic presentation of the military as it protects civilization from violent evil forces". Not content with just reviewing that movie, they had to preach, "America is unlikely to fall to a military strike. What Hitler and Stalin could not impose on us with their armies we are accepting peacefully because we are morally weak. More than super-troops in accelerator suits, America needs Christians willing to defend the right to life, the true meaning of marriage and the moral values that make our civilization civil. " That is perhaps the most unintentionally funny review I have ever read.

More unintential levity on their site is the link to donate: Link to donate: "Donate: Help us bring God's light to an industry with much darkness."

Movieguide.org worries about protecting against the forces of darkness, but darkness is exactly what it is breeding. It promotes ignorance over openness, misunderstanding over insight, mysticism over enlightenment. The worse kind of stupidity ... ignorance couched in righteousness.

It'd be easy to write off this site and those that sponsor and use it as the fringe or "fundamentalists". But they're not. This is mainstream Christianity. That's the scary thing. God bless America.

"Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan." -- Sam Harris


4 comments:

CyberKitten said...

Amazingly I'm *almost* lost for words......

I'll review the film when I see it (I was actually in 2 minds about seeing but I *have* to now!)

wunelle said...

It's stupefying. Stuff like this, the riot of 10,000 angry idiots in the Capitol over the weekend, the apoplectic "town hall meetings," Congresspeople shouting, tourettes-like, at the President, anyone taking Sarah Palin seriously; we really do seem like America the Stupid.

CyberKitten said...

I'm thinking you'll need to wait for the DVD - smuggled across the Canadian border..... [grin]

[muses] There could be some money to be made by an enterprising individual here..... [grin]

dbackdad said...

Wunelle - It's truly mystifiying. You constantly have to be vigilant. Just this last week, conservative sites were claiming a million people descended on Washington. Police had the total generously at 60 or 70 thousand. Plus conservative blogs were posting a picture of the Mall that was over 10 years old. If you are going to manufacture dissent, at least spend a little more time creating our illusion. Dumb.

CK -- I like the way you think.