- a documentary that lets you make up your own mind 5/27/2008 12:00:00 AM by Buddy-51
We've been taught to believe that the purest and best documentaries are those that take a definitive stand on an issue. Such a one-sided approach is supposed to bespeak a righteous passion on the part of a filmmaker - as if dogmatism, in and of itself, were an indisputable virtue. But what if the issue at hand is so morally complex that it simply doesn't lend itself to the strident arguments and easy answers of a black-and-white diatribe? Might it not, then, be best to drop the "know-it-all" posture of the partisan zealot and, instead, attempt to look at both sides of the issue from a position of objectivity and fairness?
Well, that is exactly what filmmaker Tony Kaye has done with "Lake of Fire," a documentary on abortion that attempts to examine both sides of the issue in as unbiased and evenhanded a way as possible. For once, the impassioned spokespersons in both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" camps are free to have their say and to make their case, without commentary or condemnation from a judgmental third party. In so doing, he has fashioned an unflinching and uncompromising look at one of the issues that most divides Americans today - and will surely do so for a very long time to come..
Watching "Lake of Fire" is a bit like being a ping pong ball in a high-stakes table tennis match. Just as we find ourselves agreeing with a representative from one side of the equation, we are bandied back to the opposing side by what appear to be equally compelling arguments emanating from a spokesperson there. And back and forth we go. For while there are "nutcases" and "screwballs" on both sides of the divide (and they certainly get ample opportunity to voice their views here), many of the people who are interviewed offer sound, reasoned arguments for the positions they take. At a lengthy two hours and thirty-two minutes, Kaye's film has plenty of time to take us into the emotionally-charged world of abortion politics, represented most vividly by the impassioned rallies and protest marches that all too often devolve into name-calling shouting matches that cloud the issue and further alienate those in the political center. Moreover, in what is essentially a new American "civil war," both sides come to the battlefield armed with gruesome images of those who have already perished in the conflict - the pro-lifers of dismembered fetuses, the pro-choicers of murdered doctors and victims of "back alley" abortions.
Kaye is to be particularly commended for not sanitizing or sugarcoating the actual abortion process, clearly assuming that we are grown up enough to face the truth without the need for coyness or comforting filters. Intriguingly, Kaye has opted to film his movie in black-and-white rather than color, a very shrewd and wise decision, since the stark imagery serves to underline the seriousness and gravity of the issue.
If there's a weakness to the film it is that there may be a bit too much emphasis on the movers and shakers in each of the groups and not enough on the ordinary, average citizens whose lives have been directly affected or severely altered by abortion (or the lack thereof). The movie does, however, end on such a note, taking us along with a young woman as she goes through the step-by-step process of an actual abortion. It reminds us that, after all the speeches and marches, all the clinic protests and killing of doctors, the issue finally comes down to an individual woman and the agonizing decision she alone is being called upon to make.
With his film, Kaye clearly wants to make us think, but he doesn't tell us HOW to think - and that's what separates his work from that of so many of his film-making contemporaries. How people will react to this film is anyone's guess. All I know is that, no matter which side of the struggle you may come down on - or even if you have somehow managed to remain scrupulously neutral about it up to this point - "Lake of Fire" will indeed make you think long and hard about the issue.
- Everybody is right when it comes to the issue of abortion. 4/16/2008 12:00:00 AM by lastliberal
It seems fitting that I watched this on the very day that I read about the atrocious state of child protection in Oklahoma. It is a reminder of the definition of "Pro-Life" that I believe so strongly: they only care about life before it is born, and are not concerned with life after birth.
It was an outstanding documentary that gave both sides of the issue, even to the point of showing an actual abortion being performed. I could have done without that. This is however, the definitive film on the issue.
Some may consider it slanted as it showed the pro-life advocates as crazy loons, but when they are self-confessed bigots like leader Randall Terry, and Klan members/ministers like John Burk that consider murderers "patriots," what else can you call them. This film will give you a good picture of where this issue started, and why it continues to this day. You will learn just who is keeping this alive and their reasons for doing so. You will also be well informed on the types of people who are using this issue for their personal causes.
Great film to educate you on this sensitive issue.
- the best documentary you probably didn't see in 2007 3/18/2008 12:00:00 AM by Quinoa1984
In Lake of Fire, a film that Tony Kaye- director behind American History X (which he wanted to be named under the pseudonym 'Humpty Dumpty' following a loss of final cut)- has been shooting footage for over fifteen years, is about all you need to see to know the fundamentalist and existentialist ramifications on the abortion-in-America issue. It covers all of the pro-life advocates, the murders of doctors and bombings of clinics, footage of actual abortions, and even an interview with the real-life 'Roe' from Roe v. Wade. It covers about as much ground, in interviews and footage of those at rallies and on the street and so on and so forth, that can be covered in two and a half hours.
But what builds up Kaye's film to such a potent focus is that Kaye doesn't let out necessarily what *his* stance is on the issue. I think this was the way to go, and not necessarily because it would be insensitive one way or the other- in order to take as objective a stance as possible (which, in this case, is so next to impossible because of the subjective point for a woman when it comes time to decide on the pregnancy), it works best to let the sides speak for themselves. As it turns out, he doesn't let the pro-choice crowd be the only voices of reason either; one actually sees, when there isn't total crazy Bible-thumping rhetoric, some sound arguments against abortion. And why not? It's one of the murkiest of all issues in the annals of history, not just American. And as we learn painfully in Lake of Fire, no matter what the most savage and hypocritical of the maniacs who try and stop abortion practices and doctors (in the old Malcolm X 'by any means necessary' mold), women will always get abortions if it comes down to it.
Kaye's scope is large and all encompassing, with interviews from the likes of pragmatic minded Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershwitz (the latter's parable about the Rabbi hits it the nail on the head, if there could be a nail in this), to intelligent pro-lifer Nat Hentoff, to Roe (real name Norma McCorvey) who got converted to being pro-life after setting the stage for all of this in the 70s, to the clean-cut psycho Paul Hill. Then there's everyone in-between, from radio show hosts to priests and pastors (one of which, an uproarious 'Lamb' protector), and then to doctors and professors. Not one word is wasted, which is staggering unto itself for over two and a half hours.
What one sees is the issue of choice in general, but also the nature of zealousness. To be sure, the pro-choice crowd are far less zealous than those who use the bible (or the Pope or just any thoughts about heaven or hell in general and who they think will go to where or not) as a blanket of protection. And Kaye's style for this is like that of mourning for lack of disagreeing to agree, and vice-versa and in-between. His cinematography shoots things in a stark, gray tone, while Anne Dudley's music- very akin to American History X- is that of the utmost tragedy. There are many beautifully shot scenes, from close-ups to cut-aways, but one that strikes me the most is during the Q&A at a doctor's office with a woman who is about to get an abortion.
As far as the issue itself and how viewers will take to it... It's not cut and dry. It won't reveal to you anything that might change your opinion, if it's already steadfast, about the issue. What Kaye does do, and it's a brave feat, is to not candy-coat a thing, to be provocative but not to a point of no return, to make clear what is at stake in what it means for a human being to take a life, any life, and how we approach that. As a man I will never have to make that choice of 'do I or don't I' in the first trimester. But as Lake of Fire makes perfectly clear, it's a civil rights issue through and through. It also makes for some fantastic cinema through someone as meticulous and exemplary a filmmaker as the (unprolific) Kaye. A+
- Brilliant Documentary 9/19/2006 12:00:00 AM by rtbd
I saw this film at a Toronto Int'l Film Festival industry screening and thought it was one of best documentaries I have EVER seen! I've read a couple of reviews that have called it the definitive film of the subject of abortion - I completely agree. I've never seen anything so complex, complete and emotionally wrenching as this epic work. It stayed with me long after the screening. In fact, roughly 10 days have passed since I saw the film and it continues to haunt my thoughts. I weeped at the end. My only criticisms are it's length (far too long) and it's use of music, which often bordered on excessive and manipulative. But, those are relatively small concerns when weighed against the film's many positives.
I LOVE documentaries and have seen nearly every major work produced in the past 20 to 30 years (as well as not so major films). "Lake of Fire" may well be my favorite - I'm still deciding if any of the other films I've loved delivered the same unrelenting, yet profoundly emotional punch to the gut that this one did.
- Pro-lifers evidently don't understand bias 6/12/2008 12:00:00 AM by Streetballa
I saw a few people on here proclaiming themselves as pro-life and panning the film for supposedly being biased against their view.
First of all, purely on balance alone I'd say the film is equal to both sides. It's just that most of the stuff which makes you want to be pro-life comes at the beginning of the film while most of the content which makes you want to be pro-choice comes in the second half. It seems to me that they're just upset that their side didn't get the proverbial last word.
Secondly, this film is not about balance anyway. It's about documenting the cultural debate in the film about abortion in America. Whether one or two dissenting reviewers of this film are or not, the fact is that most of the pro-life advocates are Christian religious fringe. Of course there are exceptions, and they document that in the movie. Although I don't think Kaye should have given an hour to the secular atheist pro-lifers, because frankly there aren't that many of them.
The criticism also seem to come from people who don't even understand any points being made in the movie -- one reviewer claimed that Chomsky was comparing abortion to a woman washing her hands. That's not what he was doing at all. His example was made to demonstrate the relativity involved with the process of placing value on life.
In any event, the film definitely is a roller coaster ride, and there are times where you might find yourself at odds with your own opinion. The movie being as balanced as it is, probably wont change a lot of minds, but I would think at the very least it would soften your position one way or another. If it doesn't, you're either just stubborn, or you weren't even trying to pay attention to the message of the film.