Why the Screening of Anti-Abortion Film Unplanned is Deservingly Controversial

Canada’s largest chain of cinemas, Cineplex Entertainment, has drawn a great deal of criticism for screening US production Unplanned, which, according to numerous films critics and abortion rights activists, promotes falsehoods on the subject of abortion. President and CEO of the cinema chain, Ellis Jacob, has argued that his decision to screen the film was influenced by Canada’s constitutional right to freedom of expression, but does that really vindicate the decision?

Full disclaimer, I’m pro-choice. And as a man, I would never tell a woman what to do with her body; a sentiment clearly not shared by the filmmakers of Unplanned, given that each and every last person involved in the directing, executive producing, and writing of this propaganda film is of the male persuasion. Their material is admittedly based on a memoir by former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, but cinema is certainly not known for its faithful adaptation of books, much less real-life events, and where there is agenda there will be certainly embellishment, even when the person whom you are adapting already agrees with you.

Yet I do believe in freedom of expression, and that the proliferation and acknowledgement of conflicting ideals and beliefs allows for constructive and well-informed debate. However, when the truth is being manipulated, in this case cinematically, for no reason other than to influence the ill-informed, a film becomes no better than a trashy Dinesh D’Souza piece, if not worse.

Case in point, it’s never a good sign when a working title like Redeemed is used to hide a film’s true subject matter from potential protesters, as it offers nothing more than a clear acknowledgement of the film’s insidiously provocative intentions. What’s more, that very working title strongly denotes the one-sided, theistically charged views of its filmmakers, as they are clearly not about presenting objective facts, but rather what they view as the ‘redemptive’ story of the film’s version of Johnson, and how she can be a symbol for their own purposes. Still have your doubts? Just watch the trailer, which suggests that abortion is driven by nothing more than corporate greed, before the ‘villain’ melodramatically, and laughably, warns Johnson that she’s made “an enemy of one of the most powerful organisations on the planet.” More powerful than the church, I wonder?

Let’s call this what it is: an American production that is capitalising on said nation’s growing anti-abortion movement, which has become a hot topic of late given the supreme court’s predominantly conservative justices, who are potentially set to challenge the one ruling that made abortion legal in the country. Such thinly-veiled politics has no place in Canadian cinemas, much less Canada as a nation.

Do not misunderstand, I respect a person’s right to their own opinions, pro-life included, so long as they don’t distort the facts in pursuit of their own agenda. Yet judging even by the trailer alone, one can tell that Unplanned does just that, and as such is fully deserving of the controversy its screening has generated.


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