Every once in a while a motion picture comes along that starts a national political discussion. Folks on every side of an issue see a deeper meaning—a message—in the film and waste no time sharing their two cents.
Such is the case with Crescendo, a short film scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on February 28. It's the beautifully told story of a woman in the 18th century who, while pregnant, tried to take her own life only to reverse course as the result of some unexpected events. The child she carried to term eventually became known to the world as the composer Ludwig von Beethoven.
The film has already won more than 11 international awards but is attracting attention here in the United States because the people behind it hope it can be used as a vehicle to raise $10 million for crisis pregnancy centers and because its executive producer is Pattie Mallette, better known to the world as the mother of pop superstar Justin Bieber.
Mallette has been widely criticized because of her relationship with the film, criticism that has spilled over somewhat on to her famous son. Advocates for abortion rights have suggested the project is meant as some sort of subliminal political statement when, say those connected with Crescendo, they had no such intention.
"I am involved with this project to tell my story and to encourage young women and to give them hope," Mallette said, "not to make a controversial statement or to promote what I think other women should do."
For Mallette the issue is intensely personal, having given birth to her son while unmarried and after being pressured to terminate the pregnancy. "When I became pregnant, I knew for myself that I had to keep my baby and I want other women in the same situation to know that there is a place for them to go if they find themselves with nowhere to turn," she said.
It's an interesting quandary. There are plenty of people opposed to abortion who devote time and financial resources to caring for women who choose to have their baby when an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy occurs—whether they ultimately choose to raise the child or put the child up for adoption. The same cannot be said, apparently, for those for those who metaphorically live and die on the altar of "choice" but do little to support women in similar circumstances who choose not to have an abortion.
This may be the real reason the film has acquired political overtones and is being much discussed by those who engage in cultural politics. All this, however, is beside the point as far as Mallette is concerned. She's involved with the project not because she wants to make any kind of statement on abortion but because she wants other women who make the same choice she did, to have her baby, to have access to the same kinds of support and services that were available to her.
"My hope has always been to tell my story to help young women because I can relate," she says, admitting that it is not common knowledge that she was a single and a teen when she became pregnant with her son. She was, she says, "relatively alone, scared and unprepared" until a crisis pregnancy center took her in, "and gave me the help I needed."
"I don't know where we would be without that center," Mallette says, adding, "I would hope that anyone, whether for or against abortion, would always want any young woman who may need a place to be cared for, loved and helped, to have what she would need."
This really, after all, is the point. Not whether one is for or against abortion but the responsibility each of us has towards our brothers and sisters, to love them as they should be loved because we are all equal in the eyes of the creator. It is a sad commentary indeed when a selfless act, in this case the backing of a film that will hopefully help crisis pregnancy centers raise the money they need to keep operating so that more young women in difficult situations can find help and support, is turned into a political football. The snide attacks coming from certain encampments in the ongoing culture wars against Crescendo and against Mallette are shameful. They lack compassion, lack any understanding of the pure charitable motives that are behind the project. Instead, like modern day Javerts, they are hunting down the good in all of us, seeking to drive it from society.
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