Christian filmmakers behind the pro-life movie “Unplanned” have refused to alter the film’s message despite being informed by the Motion Picture Association of America that the film will be rated R — unless all scenes of abortions are removed.
The film, from Pure Flix Entertainment, tells the true story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson’s conversion into a pro-life activist. While the filmmakers were certain they were making a PG-13 film, the MPAA has informed them that it will be rated R for “some disturbing/bloody images” unless all scenes of abortions are removed or altered, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Pure Flix says not only will it not alter the film’s pro-life message to get a PG-13 rating, but it also won’t officially appeal the decision, as it worries it would delay its distribution efforts.
“A 15-year-old girl can get an abortion without her parent’s permission but she can’t see this movie without adult supervision? That’s sad,” Ken Rather, executive VP of distribution for Pure Flix told the Hollywood Reporter.
Filmmakers also fired off a letter of complaint to MPAA CEO Charles Rivkin.
“We consider the MPAA’s current standards to be deeply flawed, insofar as they allowed scenes of remarkably graphic sex, violence, degradation, murder and mayhem to have a PG-13 rating, whereas our film, highlighting the grave dangers of abortion in a straightforward manner, is considered dangerous for the American people to view,” wrote Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, the co-writers and co-directors of “Unplanned.”
In the United States, a film that is rated R by the MPAA is restricted to those over the age of 17 unless accompanied by a parent or another adult guardian.
The MPAA reportedly took issue with one particular scene of “Unplanned,” where a doctor observes a computer screen that shows the image of a fetus post-abortion. Dr. Anthony Levatino, who was portrayed in the scene and has performed about 1,200 abortions, said the depiction is accurate.
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Solomon said that the MPAA also objected to all three scenes in the film that directly address abortion: “They specifically made mention of objection to grainy, black-and-white sonogram images that were part of one of the scenes. It was clear that any meaningful treatment of the issue was going to be objectionable,” he said.
Konzelman told Catholic News Agency that by giving the film an R-rating, he believes the MPAA is inadvertently supporting the belief that “anything that has to do with abortion is an act of extreme violence.”
"Ironically, that's (also) our viewpoint," he said.
An MPAA spokesperson said the reason for the R-rating was in no way politically motivated, according to Fox News, claiming that the process in finalizing a rating involves a board of about 10 people voting and debating until they come to a majority agreement. They insisted that the board highlights “people from all walks of life” and “all of whom have children.”
Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinical director turned pro-life activist whose story is the subject the film, told Fox the rating isn't going to slow the movie down.
“We are pushing the boundaries of what has never been before on such a wide scale by showing America exactly what abortion is — and abortion is disturbing. It’s violent,” the 38-year-old said.
“In my opinion, one of the most impactful films of our time is ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ It was rated R. So I feel like ‘Unplanned’ is in good company. An R rating from the MPAA isn’t going to slow this movie down. I believe people are ready for the truth.”
Solomon told CNA that Christians should not worry about seeing the film alongside their children despite the mature rating.
“It's time for Christians to come to the reality of the fact that (abortion) is going on. If a rating is going to keep them from even looking at this subject, then shame on us,” he said.
Michael Scott, president of Pure Flix, echoed Solomon's sentiment, telling Fox that Pure Flix exists to give a platform to films that would otherwise be panned by Hollywood.
“We’re proud to be associated with this film and we are confident that our fans will not stay away because of the opinions of reviewers and listen to those in the faith community who have seen the film and agree with us. In this case, R stands for recommended," he said.
“Unplanned” was written and directed by Konzelman and Solomon, who also wrote “God’s Not Dead” and “God’s Not Dead 2.” The movie was partially funded by Michael Lindell, a born-again Christian and the founder of the company MyPillow.
“Unplanned” is the first-ever R-rated film distributed by PureFlix, and will be released in theaters nationwide on March 29.