Rejecting Creation the movie: A business decision

Film distributors not imposing their ideology.


UPDATE (January 2010): After this article was published, the US film distributor overturned their original decision to “pass” on the film Creation, and so the film was released for distribution in the US, hitting the box office on 24 January 2010.

Photo wikipediaAnnie Darwin
Annie Darwin

Canada’s Macleans news site recently published an article titled “Darwin movie too evolved for U.S. audiences”. The article refers to the decision of US film distributors to “pass” on the film “Creation”—the dramatized story of Charles Darwin’s struggle while writing the Origin of Species. The refusal to distribute a film premiered and acclaimed at the Toronto Film Festival seems to have again roused the Canadian media’s scorn of the “backward Americans” of which—according to Gallup— “only 39% believe Darwin and his evolutionary theory”. It is interesting how very differently the Canadian and world media treated America during WW II when far fewer Americans believed Darwin! It seemed then that disbelief in Darwin had little to do with economic power, and “backward America” was capable of defeating the “advanced evolution-believing” Germany and Japan economically, technically and of course militarily. After the war a creationist—Wernher von Braun—headed the Apollo space program. American schools, most of which refused to teach Darwinian evolution, have produced (between 1925 and 1957) more Nobel prizes than the rest of the world put together.

The film “Creation” (see CMI’s review) has Paul Bettany (who seems to enjoy playing such characters, from the dark “ecclesiastic agent” Silas in the Da Vinci Code to the surprisingly Darwinesque doctor Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander) depict a tormented Darwin who lost his faith in God as he lost his favorite little girl Annie. Dramatic maybe, but far from reality because Darwin had already stopped believing in the God of the Scriptures long before. For a useful reality check on Darwin see CMI’s documentary The Voyage that Shook the World.

Why did the distributors reject it?

But to return to the issue of the US distributors rejecting this movie. There is no doubt that the US became a world power because of the way its people understood and practiced the free market. And that means Americans know how to assume risks in order to prosper, so it seems that distributing “Creation” represents a risk higher than usual. In other words, the decision was just business, nothing more.

But how strong is the case taken by the Canadian media that its decision flows out of a retrograde, conservative culture, something akin to banning the film? A look at the history of cinematography reveals that many movies have been banned (as opposed to not distributed) in most civilized countries, including Canada (Table 1). Unlike the decision of a commercial corporation, the banning of films is a cultural decision based on moral values assumed to be shared by the majority of the population. Therefore Macleans and the rest of the critical Canadian media should write about the Canadian “lack of evolution” before patronizing the American public. But fair reporting is a dying species anyway and when it comes to cinematography one can assume it extinct altogether.

Country Period Number of films
01 Australia 1907-2002 51
02 Canada 1918–2000 15
03 Finland 1943 2
04 France 1953–1963 3
05 Germany 1919 1
06 Hungary 1948–1983 6
07 Iceland 1931–2000 13
08 Japan 1945–1984 5
09 New Zealand 1979–2007 9
10 Norway 1964–2009 7
11 Singapore 1971–2006 17
12 Spain 1939–1986 4
13 Sweden 1922–1997 5
14 United Kingdom 1932–2009 13
15 United States 1908–2009 21
16 Vatican City 1979–2006 3
TABLE 1 Banning of films in various countries

Consider the treatment of two very different recent documentaries: Ben Stein’s ”Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which exposes the entrenched suppression in academia of scientific debate over evolution, and Bill Maher’s Religulous, which mocks God and religious belief. The former was shown in only 36 theatres across Canada (was that because distributors didn’t believe it was a good investment?) Maher’s film opening was restricted to only 502 theatres in the USA but to this author’s knowledge, there have been no restrictions in Canada, both on opening or after.

The media has accused Stein of deceiving people in order to obtain interviews, and propaganda in the film. But there has been no equivalent indignation and condemnation in the case of Maher who said: “We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it ‘A Spiritual Journey.’ It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salt Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.”So much for unbiased reporting.

Media bias against Christian values

There is a long history of Canadian media looking down on Christian values, both in America and Canada and I hope the US film distributors’ decision regarding “Creation” will help change the attitudes of Canadian Christians. I believe too many Christians have adopted the idea of “tolerance” promoted by the secularists i.e. “we have to tolerate all those who reject absolutes”. That of course implies that tolerance does not apply to those who believe in absolutes! Well, Jesus Christ not only believed in absolutes, HE IS ABSOLUTE! How then can Christians “relativise” Christ in order to be tolerated? The answer I believe lies in the very heart of what Creation Ministries International is all about: accepting the authority of Scripture from the very first verse.

The author of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown puts it succinctly:

“I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, ‘I don’t get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and Earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?’ Unfortunately, the response I got was, ‘Nice boys don’t ask that question.’ A light went off, and I said, ‘The Bible doesn’t make sense. Science makes much more sense to me.’ And I just gravitated away from religion.”

The opposite process is required to prevent Christian young people “gravitating away from religion” and that is what our ministry is endeavoring to do. Nice boys or not, those tough questions need to be addressed and CMI speakers address them every single time when doing ministry. And the substantial resources we carry do that also. Big bang, Noah’s Flood, Cain’s wife, radiometric dating, dinosaurs, the origins of man etc. are all scientifically tackled, helping Christians not to “Brown out” and ‘gravitate away” from the Gospel.

In his wonderful grace, God has even granted our ministry the means to take a huge professional leap into the tough and so powerful world of visual arts. Despite efforts to discredit it, the documentary The Voyage that Shook the World has been well received worldwide and even skeptics had to recognize its quality and fairness. Sure, the deeply entrenched secular humanistic media will never acknowledge it but by simply comparing the size of the postings on Wikipedia for Ben Stein’s Expelled … and CMI’s The Voyage … reveals the truth: our documentary is too solid and fact-based as well as honest and balanced to be ignored or attacked. And that’s not because of us but because of God’s grace and Him answering prayers.

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Published: 10 December 2009