Kiddie Porn Movie Rocks Toronto as 'Feel-Awful' Film of the Year

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Published September 11, 2007

| FoxNews.com

The worst and most offensive movie I’ve seen in a while has just had three screenings at the kooky Toronto Film Festival.

"Nothing Is Private" is written and directed by Alan Ball, the man behind "Six Feet Under" and "American Beauty." But it’s caused outrage here for its graphic depiction of sexual, mental and physical child abuse that verges quite literally on kiddie porn.

The movie — so odious that many people have simply walked out during the screenings — shows actor Aaron Eckhart having sex with a 13-year-old girl played by a now 19-year-old actress, Summer Bishil. The actress only turned 19 recently, however, which means that she was just on the cusp of 18 when she made the movie last year.

"Nothing Is Private" is based on a novel called "Towelhead" by Alicia Erian, and it very well may adhere to the book’s parameters. But books and films are very different.

In the movie version, the abuse heaped on 13-year-old Jazeera by her adult neighbor, her older teen boyfriend and her own father is shocking, ceaseless and disgusting. "Nothing Is Private" is the feel-awful movie of 2007.

Eckhart, best known for roles in "Erin Brockovich" and "Thank You for Smoking" inexplicably agreed to this part. His character initially takes the girl’s virginity by fondling her, in a very graphic scene that leaves nothing to the imagination.

Later, he sodomizes her. In between, his pedophilia is played in such a way that the first and only thought is that we’re watching kiddie porn.

If Ball — who regularly toyed with conventions in his TV show and in "American Beauty" — thought all this would somehow illuminate the tragedy of child abuse, he was wrong. Too much is shown and too many lines are crossed for "Nothing Is Private" ever to be released by a major studio or distribution company to theatres. If nothing else, the endless "ick" factor involving nearly every character is a permanent obstacle.

It’s not like "Nothing Is Private" doesn’t have other problems as well. Jazeera has an Iraqi father (Peter Macdissi) who’s supposed to be a ladies' man but comes off swishier than Liberace. The father regularly hits Jazeera and threatens to beat her to death.

Her mother is a self-absorbed American (Maria Bello) who cares nothing for her child and loads her with more baggage than a porter at JFK.

And that’s not all. Jazeera, abandoned and then seduced by next-door neighbor Eckhart, has already been abused by Bello’s second husband.

She also falls into a kinky sexual relationship with a boy from school. That relationship is treated like all her others, blithely and almost without regard, as if this is the norm for any 13-year-old girl.

Remember when we thought the movie "Thirteen" with Evan Rachel Wood was scandalous? It seems like child’s play by comparison now.

Luckily, someone speaks up for Jazeera. That would be a pregnant neighbor played by Toni Collette and that character’s husband (Matt Letscher).

But by the time they realize something is wrong with Jazeera, the damage has been done and shown to us repeatedly and creepily. The couple provide a temporary safe haven for Jazeera, but it’s really too little, too late, at least for the audience.

"Nothing Is Private" comes within a year of "Hounddog," the film in which a 12-year-old girl (Dakota Fanning) is raped on screen. Of course, in that case it was really a 12-year-old. But something has definitely happened -- a change has occurred in the mindset of filmmakers who no longer see anything wrong with these depictions. How wrong they are.

Independent filmmaking is not supposed to be marked by a complete abandonment of taste, sensibility and propriety.

I don’t know if "Towelhead" is a good novel or not. But the way it’s been translated to film is certain to gross out even the most cutting-edge audiences. It’s simply unacceptable.

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