It seems a happy coincidence has occurred. This weekend we will witness two independent media spectacles that tender a human face to the often sterilized depiction of abortion and "choice." Together they may contribute to breaking through the political impasse surrounding the most polarizing issue in America.
Bella, the surprise winner of this year's Toronto Film Festival, premieres this Friday, October 26, in theatres across the country. The romantic drama starring Eduardo Verástegui (Mexican "telenovela" megastar) and Tammy Blanchard ("The Good Shepherd," "The Ramen Girl," "Life with Judy Garland") depicts the revolutionary effect that an unexpected pregnancy has on the lives of two young people, whose paths have crossed in an equally unexpected way.
Set in a charming New York City neighborhood, Verástegui stars as José, a once-famous professional soccer player who now works as a malcontent line-cook in his brother's failing restaurant. Self-engrossed and down on his luck, José spends most of his time wallowing in his own misery and fighting off demons from his past. That is, until he meets an endearing waitress named Nina (Blanchard) who turns to him for council. Blanchard gives a stand-out performance as a struggling waitress with a New York attitude who finds herself pregnant, alone, out of a job, and desperate.
Some have compared Bella to the Passion of the Christ on account of its traditional religious undertones and grass-roots support. Although I am friends with the production team and main actor, I must say the analogy is a bit overreaching. But as an independent film relying on a relatively small budget, "Bella" deserves every one of the many accolades it has received from movie critics around the country. I have seen an early vision of the film, and I recommend it without reservation.
On Saturday evening at 9 p.m. ET, the FOX News Channel will air a provocative documentary also about abortion and "choice." Executive producer, Brian Gaffney, described to me his team's work in this way: "This show has no political handicapping, no medical experts, and no Constitutional analysis. We simply follow three women as they decide what to do about their problem or unwanted pregnancies."
This includes toting FOX cameras into an operating room with a 20-year-old student as she undergoes an abortion. Facing Reality, Choice, hosted by E.D. Hill and produced by Rachel Feldman, also documents the story of Brooke and Tom who bring to full-term a child with a fatal disease, knowing it will only survive a few hours after birth. I have not seen the documentary, but if it lives up to the advertisement, it will be groundbreaking in its ability to make us consider, once again, what "choice" is all about.
The feature film, Bella, and the FOX documentary, Facing Reality, Choice, may have little in common at face value. The important coincidence I see, however, is that both confront abortion through storytelling. And at the end of the day, stories are what abortion is about. Since the dawn of Roe v. Wade, there have been an estimated 48,300,000 surgical abortions in America.
We hear a lot of chatter about the politics of abortion, but rarely do we hear anyone talk about my abortion, or my wife's abortion, or the child we almost aborted. Similarly, we rarely hear discussion about how to support women in the midst of their agonizing decisions, often forced upon them by irresponsible men.
Until we see up-close what "choice" really is and what its consequences are, we will, I'm afraid, forever be a country held bondage by sterilized debates that have nothing to do with women, children, or the good of society.
Storytelling may be the best way to break the impasse, and it all starts this weekend. Tune in, and then tell me what you think.
God bless, Father Jonathan
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