Movie Review 

By Steve Jalsevac

October 16, 2007 ( – Eccentric film director/producer Tony Kaye is an artsy type who likes to emphasize the dark side with sensational, disturbing scenes and close-up interviews, especially of creepy people or his idea of “great thinkers”. In his just released 153 minute black and white “Lake of Fire”, he surpasses his own expectations. While the film is billed as “unquestionably the definitive work on the subject of abortion” and Kaye says his goal was to “show both sides of the issue”, any knowledgeable observer of the US abortion struggle would suggest he has achieved nothing of the sort.

Two explicit segments of actual abortions, interviews with a series of anti-abortion murderers and filmed statements from a series of extreme fundamentalist anti-abortion Christians got Kaye exactly what he desired after 16 long years of filming. There is also a gruesome segment from the brief Hard Truth movie which slowly pans over the many aborted baby parts – heads, arms, feet, torsos – found in a California garbage dumpster.

  Following last year’s Toronto Film Festival premier of Lake of Fire, one reviewer, representative of many, wrote, “Most of us left the theater feeling as though we had been hit by a sledgehammer.” That’s understandable and not such a bad thing as far as the abortion and baby body parts scenes are concerned. It is a powerful, disturbing movie.

The two segments showing actual abortions and the unmistakable humanity of the unborn are the most useful and timeless segments. However there is a questionable purpose to the overly dramatic music played while the camera lingers on the young woman who has just had the second abortion (her fifth) and tearfully justified that abortion. This choice of music by Kaye also seems to justify what she has done or confirm that she made an heroic or necessary, but very hard-to-bear decision. It follows Frances Kissling stating, “I never met a woman who did not take abortion seriously.”
For anyone who is fair-minded and knowledgeable about the abortion issue, there are obvious elements about Lake of Fire that sack its claim to be a ‘definitive’ film on abortion. Some of them are the chosen title, the opening scenes, the absence of any reference to pro-abortion activist violence and, crucially, the absence of most mainstream pro-life leaders and credible responses from them to pro-abortion claims and statements by the intellectuals, pro-abort leaders and others in the film.
  The movie’s title is taken from former Klu Klux Klansman, anti-abortion, fundamentalist Christian John Burt’s description of Hell that is awaiting abortionists. He is shown at the beginning of the movie ominously describing the Book of Revelations’ lake of fire – “It must be like lava coming out of a volcano except there’s people in it, and they’re burning and burning.” Soon to be abortionist-killer Paul Hill, one of Burt’s disciples, is shown in front of an abortion clinic talking about the lake of fire that awaits abortionists who should be executed. The phrase comes up a number of times during the two and one half hour film.

  Burt is himself an ominous character who is alleged to have inspired close associates Hill and Michael Griffin to each murder an abortionist as their duty to God. Hill is chillingly filmed over a period of time, from outside a courtroom defending Michael Griffin’ s murder of abortionist David Gunn, to in front of the abortion clinic at which Gunn was killed calling for the execution of abortionists and then later before and after photos of his murder victims from the same clinic, abortionist John Britton and his bodyguard.

Ominous music, intense close ups of Burt’s lake of fire condemnation are followed immediately by a chalice covered with a rosary, a crucifix and statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are the movie’s first manifestations of Kaye’s (perhaps unintentional) portrayal of all abortion opponents as violent, fundamentalist, or just plain extremist, weird Christians. For the most part, those are the only types of Christians interviewed in the movie with a few notable exceptions like Norma McCorvey who was interviewed soon after her conversion to pro-life and Christianity.

  Most of Kaye’s anti-abortion material is outdated. The landscape has dramatically changed during the past 18 years. The media has far fewer of the tiny, radical fringe anti-abortion (as opposed to pro-life) types to gleefully exploit in order to denigrate the vastly more representative, authentic pro-life movement and its noble goals.

  Mind you, Kaye has probably captured the extreme sub-culture of anti-abortion weirdos and killers as no one ever has before. That part is good documentary film-making and fair game. In so doing, though, he should have dropped the pretense of covering the wider abortion issue. Kaye has instead covered certain selected, shall we say, more interesting, more movie-selling, sensational aspect of the abortion controversy.

But then, amazingly, after those 16 years of filming, Kaye does not seem to have encountered the numerous, also creepy, scary and violent pro-abortion activist anarchists, socialists, radical gay activists, punks and other assorted elements that often harassed and assaulted pro-lifers at peaceful protests and events during those same years.

  Also missing are those sadistic police in more than a few cities and towns who seemed to love to threaten, bully and torture passive, praying, family type pro-life demonstrators. They would drag innocent young college girls in handcuffs up flights of stairs holding their blouses above their exposed breasts or apply terrible pain holds or snap arm bones while wrenching the arms of passive male demonstrators and even clergy. There isn’t a hint of any of this in the film.
  The various pro-aborts in the film appear, compared to the anti-abortionists, far more reasonable and normal. So much for fair play.

  Representing the anti-abortion side Kaye presents Burt, Randall Terry, Fr, Norman Weslin of the Lambs of Christ, Alan Keyes, McCorvey, Flip Benham, Burt Wilson, Bill Baird, Rev. Pat Mahoney, Pat Buchanan and murderers Paul Hill, Michael Griffin, Eric Rudolph and John Salvi. The most disturbingly portrayed of these individuals, with the exception of McCorvey, are given the most screen time.

By far the most reasonable appearing and sounding abortion opponent in the movie is, naturally, an atheist – Nat Hentoff, a genuine pro-lifer rather than anti-abortionist.

Fr. Norman Weslin Fitting into varying levels on the pro-abortion side are interviews with Francis Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice, Jocelyn Elders, abortionist John Britton before he was killed by Paul Hill and then some bioethicists and abortion clinic staff, none of whom appear remotely as ominous or weird as the abortion opponents. Also prominent are intellectuals Naom Chomsky, Alan Dershowitz and Peter Singer. A number of those on this side of the issue make outrageous comments, but then I suspect most viewers would let them get away with it because they don’t look or sound anything like those anti-abortion crazies.

  Glaringly missing are interviews, let alone mention, of any of the leaders of the large, mainstream US pro-life organizations such as National Right to Life, Pro-Life Action League, Michigan Right to Life, American Life League, Focus on the Family, Priests For Life or Silent no More Awareness. Nor are there interviews with reps of any of the numerous other state and local organizations effectively opposing abortion with sound, well presented, compassionate arguments and massive educational and political programs.

  It is extremely unlikely that any representatives of such genuinely pro-life organizations want to condemn abortionists to hell. Rather they work very hard to draw abortionists and abortion activists to reconsider their position and to become pro-life such as did Dr. Bernard Nathanson and numerous other now former abortionists.

  Those organizations and their millions of supporters, a large percentage being youth, make up the bulk of the pro-life movement in the United States. However, they barely exist in Kaye’s movie. interviewed Tony Kaye by telephone a couple of weeks after the Lake of Fire’s September 2006 premier in Toronto. In that interview Kaye revealed that he in fact deliberately excluded mainstream pro-lifers. To him they were just “everyday life kind of pro-life people.” The ones he chose for his movie were more “outrageous” and would “grab more attention”.

  Kay stated, “It’s just those other people they, they, they do stand out because by the pure nature, they are the ones that grab the headlines anyway. If you put half an hour, 40 minutes of them in a film, that 40 minutes is really going to stand out because what they do is so completely outrageous. It’s like it grabs a headline in a newspaper, it will grab someone’s attention if they are watching the film.” 

Noam Chomsky As for the word “pro-life”, another clue to his exclusion of pro-life leaders was his response, “No one is not pro-life in essence of what the word pro-life means. There is not a person in the world that is not pro-life.” That sounds, considering all that Kaye has seen, to reflect some serious denial or wishful thinking.

  Lots of film time is given to the intellectual, ultimately pro-abortion and other musings of linguist and leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky, Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Princeton Bioethist Peter Singer – the infamous anti-religious advocate of legal infanticide.

  When asked why he chose Singer, Kaye responded, “well, the purpose of having him, you know Chomsky, Dershowitz, Hentoff and other people like that, they’re not people having anything to do with abortion, they’re  just people that have great minds. That was the importance to just get a thinker, great thinkers of the world.”  Kaye’s classification of these men as “great thinkers” is revealing about himself and his film. In a recent Alan Dershowitzinterview on the A.V. Club website, Kaye reveals more of his leaning by stating “Pro-choice is an argument based on ideas and ideals that are completely sound, without a shadow of a doubt.”

  And the great minds on the pro-life side? Well, we’ll take Nat Hentoff, even though he is an atheist and subscribes to the leftist seamless garment approach. But, that’s it. No Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Jerome LeJeune, Cardinal John O’Connor, Fr. Richard Neuhaus or reference to the writings and speeches of the greatest intellectual titan of all on this issue – Pope John Paul II. Kaye didn’t have to look too hard. You have to suspect he didn’t really want any of the numerous pro-life great thinkers.
  Kaye seems to personally resist thinking too deeply (beyond the surface) of this disturbing issue. For him, it’s better to say there is no right or wrong and let’s just pretend that truth is what each person decides it is. That’s probably why he gives so much time to the ever so reasonable sounding Chomsky and Dershowitz who conclude, as the movie seems to conclude, that abortion is a complicated issue, with lots of greys, to which there are no easy answers. That’s why the movie was shot in black and white – for the greys.

  Chomsky pontificates from his desk regarding the issue of ripping apart living babies in their mothers’ wombs which Kaye filmed up close. He says, “we’re talking about ambiguous issues of a complicated kind where you have to balance conflicting interests and concerns.” And Dershowitz states, “everybody is right when it comes to the issue of a abortion.” That sort of mush seems guaranteed to keep its hearers from making honest decisions on the abortion issue.

  But then, Kaye told ABC that one of his former girlfriends had an abortion. Perhaps that explains his lack of courage in coming to a firm position on the issue. He has now seen the extreme violence of abortion and filmed the pieces of the little bodies being put back together by the abortionist. He now knows as well that this has been done to many millions of American babies.

Tony KayeWhen asked by LifeSiteNews what his personal response was to the abortions he filmed, Kaye responded, “I personally don’t believe anything justifies that.”  He said he was “horrified” by what he saw.

However later, and typical of so many who just can’t face perhaps their own complicity in one way or another with abortion, he stated, “I really don’t understand the whole thing to be honest. I’m very confused by everything. I don’t have a point of view. I’m very confused by the whole thing. I’m completely against abortion and I’m completely for the choice” – the familiar both sides of the fence position. “I personally don’t believe anything justifies that” but…

This all seems to explain why Kaye ended the movie with Stacey after her abortion experience, filmed from her entry into the clinic up to after the abortion, suddenly in tears after the abortion and yet still unable to admit the wrong of her decision. She says, “I know I made the right decision, but it’s not easy.” You can’t help but suspect those might also be Kaye’s own thoughts.

And yet, as the Silent No More women have discovered, true deliverance from the lifelong pain of an abortion only comes from admitting one’s guilt and seeking forgiveness.

  Stacey’s final comments beg for balance by an interview with a Silent No More Awareness leader such as Toronto’s Analiese Steden who has movingly and gently shared her personal abortion journey many times. She does so to help other women recover, as she recovered, from what often becomes many years of personal anguish as a result of an unresolved abortion experience.

Kaye says Lake of Fire, financed by himself to the tune of almost $7 million dollars, includes only a small portion of his total footage. He wants to sign a contract for a television series that would use the rest of his 16 years work.

  Is this something we should look forward to?

  See the complete LifeSiteNews interview with Tony Kaye:

  See pro-abort violence website”>