The founder of the movie review company Movieguide has joined the growing ranks of protesters calling for a box office boycott of two films that feature sexually explicit scenes involving young girls.
"Hounddog," starring 14-year-old Dakota Fanning, drew controversy when it appeared at the Sundance Film Festival last year for its scene depicting the rape of a pre-teen girl.
A second film, "Towelhead," stars Summer Bishil, an 18-year-old actress portraying a 13-year-old girl who experiences her sexual awakening on screen.
"This is abhorrent and abusive," said Movieguide founder Ted Baehr, who is also the chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission. "We are calling on people to avoid these movies, to tell other people not to see it."
Baehr said the movies are damaging to the child actresses filming the explicit scenes, as well as the public at large.
"There are two sides of it. The side of actual abuse to the actress and promoting or condoning these activities," he said.
A national campaign against two two movies is growing in strength. Family and women's groups have been especially active in North Carolina, where the controversial child-rape scene in "Hounddog" was filmed. Baehr said "Hounddog" received nearly $400,000 in tax credits funded by state citizens.
"In this economic condition I don't think most taxpayers want their taxes misused to provide for pedophilia," Baehr said.
Baehr has joined the "No More Child Porn" campaign, run by Donna Miller, the Fayetteville, N.C., chapter leader of Concerned Women for America — a coalition of conservative women who promote Biblical values and family traditions. They are a part of about 200 smaller groups around the country who have joined the protest.
On the group's Web site, under a section entitled, "Child Pornography is Going Mainstream," people are urged to write or call U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to express their concerns about the sexually explicit films.
"A child of 12 — Dakota Fanning was 12 when she filmed this — is not prepared to make that type of decision," Baehr said. "It is an abusive situation. This takes advantage of children in vulnerable stages of development."
The film's distributer, Empire Film Group, did not return requests for comment.
In the film's press kit, Hounddog's writer and director Deborah Kampmeier said of Fanning's character, "She is simply and innocently experiencing and relishing the aliveness of her being, the life force pulsing through her body, celebrating the power and creative force of her sexuality that is her birthright."
But Baehr said the film is offensive and dangerous and there's just no excuse. "We're telling people not to see this movie, to not fall for the ridiculous campaign to promote the movie," he said.
He expressed similar concerns with "Towelhead," which he said salaciously portrays a young girl's sexual abuse by her uncle.
He said the scenes could send the wrong message to some people. "It's also a problem for people susceptible to sex and violence. You don't want to give them the scripts to that behavior," he said.
A spokesman for Warner Independent Pictures, which released "Towelhead," said, "Our film deals with a girl's coming of age." He said that the art-house production is rated R, and will be released Friday in select cities across the country.
"It is a movie like any other movie. It's an adaptation of a novel and a novel that was a New York Times best seller."