Anti-abortion rights flicks look for home in Hollywood, film criticizing CPCs rides indie circuit
In a search for film distributors, two independent anti-abortion-themed thrillers are hoping to make it to the big screen before next fall’s legislative session.
“Doonby,” a Texas-based psychological thriller, and “The Life Zone,” written and produced by Republican New Jersey Senate candidate and conservative B-film producer Kenneth Del Vecchio, both demonize abortionists and involve supernatural elements among its anti-abortion morals, according to various film reviews.
Where they differ is in their sponsorship and in the transparency of their funding.
“The Life Zone,” which premiered June 6 at the Hoboken International Film Festival (of which Del Vecchio is the chair), is overtly political and tells the tale of three young pregnant women abducted from clinics just before their scheduled abortion procedures commenced. In “Saw” fashion, they are locked together in a prison, unsure how they got there and monitored by a creepy jailer (Robert Loggia). The angry gynecologist (Blanche Baker) charged to deliver their unwanted babies also happens to be barren.
Del Vecchio was previously a municipal court judge in New Jersey, but, according to Talking Points Memo, he resigned after he began promoting one of his many politically charged movies, O.B.A.M. Nude -– which also premiered at the Hoboken festival –- about a “cokehead college loser” who is coached by Satan in a plot to transform “the Earth’s greatest democracy into a communist fiefdom” by using a mantra of “hope and change.”
Watch the trailer for “The Life Zone”:
Then there’s $2 million “Doonby,” written and directed by Peter M. Mackenzie and starring John Schneider, best known for his role in the ”Dukes of Hazzard,” the ’70s and ’80s television series. Shot in Austin and Smithville, Texas, “Doonby,” is about a mysterious stranger who drifts into a Texas town to warn residents of an evil abortion-providing gynecologist named Dr. Cyrus Reaper (Joe Estevez, Martin Sheen’s younger brother). According to the Los Angeles Times, the movie is backed by an anonymous financier.
Schneider recently talked about the film on Fox News & Friends, where he referred to it as, “’It’s a Wonderful Life’ without the wonderful part.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film, which Mackenzie is currently shopping to various distributors and studios with a hopeful September release, was initially screened for religious leaders, similar to films such as Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of the Christ.” (HR reports that input from Christian viewers led filmmakers to digitally reduce actress Jenn Gotzon’s cleavage in one scene.)
Though seemingly less overtly political than “The Life Zone,” “Doonby” does include a cameo from real-life “Roe” of Roe v. Wade fame, Norma McCorvey. Since the 1973 Supreme Court decision, McCorvey, who grew up in Smithville, has converted to Christianity and is now an anti-abortion rights activist.
Watch the trailer for “Doonby”:
While both films are looking for homes in Hollywood, there’s another film that tackles abortion and is currently making the rounds in independent cinema houses throughout the country. “Lebanon, Pa.,” an independent film with a small budget, looks at abortion through the lens of choice and offers a critical look at crisis pregnancy centers. Reported to have been filmed on a $15,000 Red One camera, the film, which premiered at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, has had more success than the aforementioned two, albeit on the indie-film level.
Like “The Life Zone” and “Doonby,” “Lebanon” presents teen-pregnancy and abortion (a subplot in the film) with very timely political and cultural context — much of the dialogue in the film regarding abortion has surfaced in federal and state House and Senate floors this legislative session.
In an interview with Detroit’s Traverse City Film Festival, writer and director Ben Hickernell said the movie was not intended to be political, but it does zoom in on a small-town crisis pregnancy center, an abortion clinic protester and a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic — which is given the most sympathy. In a scene where pregnant 17-year-old CJ (Rachel Kitson) is taken to a CPC by a Christian classmate, the CPC volunteer appears not to know much about the ultrasound machine she is operating, and she grows stiff when asked about abortion. But unlike the aforementioned anti-abortion rights films, the choices and decision’s the characters are faced with in “Lebanon” are nuanced and not overtly judged by the filmmaker.
Watch the trailer for “Lebanon, Pa.”: