March 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The mainstream pro-life movie ‘Doonby’ has hit the ground running in its initial release in Mississippi and Dallas – with plans to expand to the wider North American and international markets – and is winning some high-level endorsements.

After the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family praised the movie in a glowing review last month, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, hosted a screening last Saturday in Glasgow where he called the film a rallying call and pledged his full active support when it is released in Scotland and the UK.

“I say that if this film assists in helping people in our society to take more seriously their responsibility in weighing up their moral choices, then it will have served an important purpose,” he said at the event, which took place at Glasgow Caledonian University.

“There is more than ever a great need for films like ‘Doonby’ to continue to arouse the interest and concerns of our peoples,” he wrote in an e-mail to the producers.

The movie features Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider as Sam Doonby, a mysterious drifter whose appearance in a small Texas town changes the lives of its residents. Its surprising ending showcases the good that one life can accomplish and the devastating hole left when a life is lost.

Though the treatment of abortion could be described as a sub-plot, it undergirds and informs the broader theme, which is, in the words of writer and director Peter MacKenzie: “Every life is important.”

Mackenzie told LifeSiteNews that the film sold out two screens on its first night in Dallas on Feb. 24th.

“We were asked by the theatres to hold the film over for a second week in two cinemas and we performed very well in this test launch with small funding up against big Studio pictures in the multi-screen cinema complexes,” said Mackenzie. “We are now talking with investors to provide the funds to roll out the movie across the States and then internationally.”

Asked about the film’s inspiration, the Irish citizen said it goes all the way back to 1967 when the U.K. Parliament passed its Abortion Act, legalizing the deadly procedure up to 28 weeks.

“I became aware right away that this would very shortly become abortion-on-demand, which it was,” he said.

But he stressed that it was important to him to make a mainstream film to bring the message beyond a merely pro-life audience.

“Faith groups are a core audience, but it’s a mainstream movie. We really want to provoke debate, give people something to talk about and think about,” he said.

“The film isn’t judgmental in any way, it’s asking questions,” he said. “Obviously I have a view on the life issue, but I don’t want to preach or hit somebody over the head with it. But what I want to do is make people think and go ‘wait a minute, this is a very serious issue.’”

It would be “an absolute disaster,” he said, if the film came across as preachy.

If that happened, “the very people I want to talk to, these people are not going to go and watch it,” he explained. “It’s all very well preaching to the choir. You can get everybody behind it and it makes you feel good, but it’s not what I really want it to be.”

The director said that, if portrayed well, the Christian message can appeal to a broader audience, but he also insisted that a pro-life stand is not strictly Christian.

“For me it’s a basic moral issue, an ethical issue. It’s about mankind, ourselves as a breed or a species,” he explained. “You’re not going to go around killing your young. It’s not a good idea. I mean, particularly for convenience.”

“The other thing is when people decide when it is a life,” he added. “Is it 24 weeks, is it 28 weeks, 22 weeks? I mean, when is it? How dare we. … Based on what? It’s totally arbitrary.”

The film made headlines last year over a strange coincidence – what many might call providence – that led to “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade playing a key role as a character trying to convince a young woman not to have an abortion.

MacKenzie said someone had suggested the idea of casting Norma McCorvey, who has since become a strong pro-life activist, but he dismissed it because they did not know where to find her. But her name was brought up again while they were beginning to film in Smithville, Texas, and Mackenzie was shocked when local townspeople told him she lived just around the corner from the set.

McCorvey, who moved to Smithville in 2009 without any particular ties to the community, says the role made the reason for her move clear.

“I guess you could say the project chose me. God told me to move there two years before but didn’t really tell me why. So I obeyed. I had no family there, no friends. I just obeyed,” McCorvey told the Hollywood Reporter.

MacKenzie told the news service that McCorvey’s role was significant because she “encapsulated American thinking on the issue.”

The film has earned high praise from pro-life, pro-family, and religious leaders.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, calls it “engrossing.” Lord David Alton says it is “thought-provoking,” “clever,” and “brilliant.” And Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women For America, calls it “riveting.”

The film got an added boost late last month as it went into its first release when it earned the endorsement of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family. MacKenzie had screened it at the Vatican in the summer of 2011.

Father Gianfranco Grieco, O.F.M. Conv., the Council’s office head, wrote Feb. 12th in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official paper, that the film is a “moving and thought-provoking psychological thriller.”

The priest says the “haunting finale … will linger in your mind and obsess your consciousness as you tackle a puzzle that will challenge each and every perception or conviction, while you experience forlorn feelings of speechlessness and shock, but ultimately of liberation.”

MacKenzie said he was “humbled” by the glowing review.

The film has no sex scenes or other racy material and is recommended by the Dove Foundation, a popular site of family-focused reviews, for those aged 12 and over. One scene involves a woman lying naked in bed, but she is covered and portrayed tastefully and the scene’s message is actually a testament to moral virtue.

In addition to Schneider, Doonby’s co-stars include Jenn Gotzon, Joe Estevez, pro-life activist Jennifer O’Neill, Will Wallace and Robert Davi.

Mackenzie says once they have their investors in place they plan to release the film on 100 screens in cities like Houston, Austin, Phoenix, LA, Denver, Nashville, Washington, and New York, and then shortly afterwards expand to 500 screens.

Once the investors have recouped their costs, ten percent of all net profits will be donated to the pro-life cause.

Find more information on Doonby.