A controversial American film against abortion is due out soon in Canadian theaters, and the distributor is preparing for possible protests.
More than 24 cinemas across the country are scheduled to screen "Unplanned" for a week starting July 12, a film that sparked intense debate during the US release of the Pure Flix Christian production studio.
Ashley Bratcher plays the role of a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, who becomes an anti-abortion speaker after seeing "something that changed everything" for her, according to a description on the film's website.
Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman co-wrote and co-directed the feature film, based on a memoir of the same name written by anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson.
BJ McKelvie, pastor and president of Fredericton-based Canadian distributor Cinedicom, said some groups had indicated their intention to demonstrate against the film, but there would also be people who would support it.
"We have a company that is under special surveillance, so there will be security there. This is The Movie Mill in Lethbridge, Alberta. It is unfortunate that she has received a lot of threats, a lot of e-mails, "McKelvie said.
The film has already aroused the passionate reactions of opposing groups on this issue in the United States.
Famous film critics on the aggregation sites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes had harsh words, many of them seeing propaganda. But public ratings are higher and some rooms are full to capacity, with faith-based and anti-abortion organizations having organized group screenings in the United States.
Due to the demonization of abortion providers by the film, CDAC fears that (Unplanned) incites fanatics to commit acts of harassment or violence against clinics or doctors.
In Canada, the rating varies from province to province. In Alberta, for example, it received a 14A rating with a "disturbing content" warning, according to the Cineplex website, while in British Columbia, the film has a PG rating – Parental Guidance Advised.
"Everyone has the right to choose to go see the film or not to go see it," McKelvie said recently in an interview. But the Coalition for Abortion Rights of Canada presents the film as "a dangerous anti-abortion propaganda" containing "vicious lies".
"He preaches an absolute and extreme case against abortion that has nothing to do with reality," said CDAC in a statement.
"Due to the demonization of the abortion providers by the film, CDAC fears that the film incites fanatics to commit acts of harassment or violence against clinics or doctors," the organization adds.
According to the Coalition, the film also describes Planned Parenthood and its leaders as "cold-hearted demon monsters, their only goal being to maximize profits by selling as many abortions as possible."
"In fact, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a non-profit organization that offers a wide range of basic health services, mostly free, to low-income people, with abortion accounting for only 3.4% of its services, "the statement said.
"Like other US abortion providers, family planning clinics have no choice but to charge for abortion care, as anti-choice laws prohibit government funding for abortion ", Argues.
(Unplanned) certainly corresponds to my values.
CDAC Executive Director Joyce Arthur also pointed out that the film's attempt to challenge the right to abortion is "a no-go in Canada, where women and transgender people have a right under of the Charter to abortion based on their right to autonomy and equality ".
"It corresponds to my values"
Mr. McKelvie acknowledged that he had a personal interest in seeing the film in theaters here.
"It certainly corresponds to my values," he said. He said that he felt the obligation to contact the American producers of "Unplanned" to distribute the film in Canada after being "annoyed" by the "disinformation" online about the fact that the drama had been banned from broadcasting in Canada.
"I was walking down the hall mumbling and I heard the Lord say to me, 'Why do not you give it away?' "" Said Mr. McKelvie.
The film will be screened in Cineplex and Landmark theaters, as well as in some independent cinemas in Canada.
Landmark said it had not heard of planned events in its halls and took no action to increase security. Cineplex claimed to be aware of the concerns surrounding the film and to monitor the situation closely.
"We've been showing movies for over 100 years and controversial big screen movies are not new to us. That said, we understand and can of course understand the concerns that some have expressed about this film, "said Sarah Van Lange, director of communications for Cineplex Entertainment.
"We have a long heritage of not censoring the content and our role as an exhibitor of films is to provide our users with a choice of films," she said.
A first experience as a distributor
Mr. McKelvie's company, founded 61 years ago by his late father, is generally a film broker. "Unplanned" marks its first participation as a film distributor.
Cinedicom and the American production company Soli Deo Gloria Releasing work together to secure the funds needed for distribution in Canada.
McKelvie said a few cinemas across the country refused to present the film.
"I think some small towns are a bit worried about possible backlash," he said.
"It's a hot topic, a news story, and I've probably received hundreds of letters of support. But I also received protest letters and phone calls. I've listened to both sides, but I'm only a distributor, "McKelvie said.
A previous version of this article had given a release date for the film in Quebec and a rating while the Ministry of Culture and Communications, responsible for the classification of films in Quebec, has so far not received any request for to this film. It is therefore impossible to presume its ranking.