Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion

"Good"

Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion Review


Considering that the topic of abortion has, more than probably any other single political issue, framed debate in America for the past thirty-plus years, it as a subject has been mostly steered well clear of by the kind of writers and filmmakers who focus on big subjects of that kind. This is particularly surprising when taking into account recent court decisions on the matter, and the usage of the issue as a bedrock vote-getter and fundraiser by the Republican party; not to mention the fact that abortion is still such a violently disputed topic that many Americans avoid bringing it up in discussion entirely. And so it looms like a cloud on the political horizon, unremarked-upon by those afraid to even point it out. Stephen Fell and Will Thompson's Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion is thusly a welcome piece of work -- it certainly has its weak points, but even a mediocre documentary is far better than nothing.

The raw material is certainly there, if often unshaped. Fell and Thompson started the film while at Rice University and the film that resulted from that beginning indeed has the feel of a school project, albeit an uncommonly ambitious one. The focus here is fortunately not encompassing the entire debate but rather on the more dedicated elements of the pro-life movement. The filmmakers pile together their subjects together in clumps, starting with the Christian students taking pro-life propaganda classes sponsored by Focus on the Family -- whose 49-acre Colorado campus is like a theocratic Christian youth boot camp. Well-groomed and bright youths watch videos while an energetic lecturer from the Justice For All organization points out techniques for converting staunchly pro-choice students. Then we watch as those same kids drop into college campuses, set up a massive and stomach-churning display comparing historical genocides with abortion, and wait for the fireworks to start.

It's a telling start, as Unborn in the USA is more about the process of the pro-life movement than it is about its philosophical underpinnings. It's a first-person account for the most part, making the unconventional choice not to spread its interviewees across the political spectrum (throwing in talking-head interviews with experts and professors of differing ideologies for perspective, say). So the filmmakers offer up the movement's strategists and tacticians, a convicted clinic bomber here, and there the woman who took the infamous photographs of mangled, discarded fetuses still emblazoned on pro-life posters today. The interviewees, given an honest reckoning without hostile editing, are with a few exceptions well-spoken, organized, and highly dedicated, jazzed on the idea of fighting for a cause with tactics that skirt the edge of legality (some, like the delusional head of the fringe and borderline-terrorist group "Army of God," just leap right over that edge).

Although seeming at times less a cohesive documentary than a series of loosely-linked interview clumps, Unborn in the USA is inarguably topical in its treatment of these often ignored activists; the kind who don't approve of those clinic bombers but aren't really that upset by them. It's a snapshot of a well-funded political underground that doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon -- something that will be either heart-warming or bone-chilling, depending on where you stand.

High five.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th June 2007

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Stephen Fell, Will Thompson

Producer: Suzanne O'Malley

Starring: John Brockhoeft as Himself, Grant Cheney as Himself, Rachel Early as Herself, Steven Ertelt as Himself, Nellie Gray as Herself, Peggy Hartshorn as Herself, as Himself, Anthony Levatino as Himself, Monica Miller as Herself, Janet Morana as Herself, Jay Mount as Himself, Troy Newman as Himself, Jonathan O'Toole as Himself, Julie A. Parton as Herself, Frank Pavone as Himself, Joe Scheidler as Himself, Don Spitz as Himself, Matt Trewhella as Himself, Steve Wagner as Himself, Steve Wetzel as Himself, Tim Wiesner as Himself, Wendy Wright as Herself

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