movie

Scientologists try to block ‘intolerant’ German feature film

Scientologists try to block ‘intolerant’ German feature film

The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Monday 15 March 2010

Claus von Stauffenberg was shot for his failed attempt to assassinate Hitler and remove the Nazi party from power in 1944, not hanged as we say below.

Germany’s state broadcaster is locked in a row with the Church of Scientology which wants to block an upcoming feature film that depicts the controversial organisation as totalitarian and unethical

Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt, or Until Nothing Remains, dramatises the account of a German family torn apart by its associations with Scientology. A young married couple joins the organisation but as the wife gets sucked ever more deeply into the group, her husband, who has donated much of his money to it, decides to leave. In the process he loses contact with his young daughter who, like his wife, is being educated by Scientology instructors.

Scientology leaders have accused Germany’s primary public TV network, ARD, of creating in top secret a piece of propaganda that sets out to undermine the group, and have demanded to see it before it is broadcast.

The 90-minute film reflects an unease in Germany about the organisation, which boasts several thousand members across the country and has its headquarters in central Berlin. The church is considered anti-constitutional by its critics.

Tension reached its peak during the making of Valkyrie, the 2008 film about the plot to assassinate Hitler, when opponents said Scientology leaders had engineered the placing of Tom Cruise, its most prominent member, in the role as Nazi resistance fighter Claus von Stauffenberg, in order to win German supporters. The organisation dismissed the claim.

The filming of Valkyrie sparked numerous clashes between the filmmakers and the government, which initially prevented them from filming on several historical sites, including the Bendler Block where Stauffenberg was hanged, due in part to Cruise’s association with Scientology. The ban was eventually lifted.

According to the makers of Until Nothing Remains, the €2.5m (£2.3 m) drama, which is due to air in a prime-time slot at the end of March, is based on the true story of Heiner von Rönns, who left Scientology and suffered the subsequent break-up of his family.

Scientology officials have said the film is false and intolerant. At a preview screening in Hamburg members distributed flyers in which the filmmakers were accused of seeking to “create a mood of intolerance and discrimination against a religious community”.

Jürg Stettler, a spokesman for Scientology in Germany said: “The truth is precisely the opposite of that which the ARD is showing.” The organisation is investigating legal means to prevent the programme from being broadcast.

Stettler said the organisation was planning its own film to “spread our own side of the story”.

ARD’s programme director Volker Herres has dismissed the accusations, saying the aim of the drama is to reveal the truth about the organisation.

“We’re not dealing here with a religion, rather with an organisation that has completely different motives,” he said. “Scientology is about power, business, and building up a network. Its lessons are pure science fiction, it’s no religion, no church, no sect.”

The film team said it had been “bombarded” with phone calls and emails from the organisation during production. The head of the Southwest German broadcasting organisation, Carl Bergengruen who was involved in the project, said Scientology had “tried via various means to discover details about the film” and that the film crew was even tailed by a Scientology representative.

“We are fearful that the organisation will try to use all legal means to try to stop the film being shown,” he said.

Thanks to JT Hundley for the link.

Vatican denounces Avatar movie

Vatican denounces Avatar movie

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican newspaper and radio station have called the film “Avatar” simplistic, and criticized it for flirting with modern doctrines that promote the worship of nature as a substitute for religion.

L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio dedicated ample coverage to James Cameron’s big-grossing, 3-D spectacle. But the reviews were lukewarm, calling the movie superficial in its eco-message, despite groundbreaking visual effects.

L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”

“Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship,” the radio said.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that while the movie reviews are just that — film criticism, with no theological weight — they do reflect Pope Benedict XVI’s views on the dangers of turning nature into a “new divinity.”

Benedict has often spoken about the need to protect the environment, earning the nickname of “green pope.” But he has sometimes balanced that call with a warning against neo-paganism.

In a recent World Day of Peace message, the pontiff warned against any notions that equate human person and other living things. He said such notions “open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone.”

The Vatican newspaper occasionally likes to comment in its cultural pages on movies or pop culture icons, as it did recently about “The Simpsons” or U2. In one famous instance, several Vatican officials spoke out against “The Da Vinci Code.”

In this case, the reviews came out after a red carpet preview held in Rome just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square. The movie will be released Friday in Italy.

Will more Americans shun Harry Potter?

Will more Americans shun Harry Potter? Daniel Radcliffe is atheist and likes Richard Dawkins

It is no secret that people have long protested not only the Harry Potter books but the movies as well. Many of those people who protest do so with their religious conviction in mind. Back in 1999, an Associated Press writer reported that a group of parents wanted the books kept from classrooms.

One parent, Elizabeth Mounce, was quoted as saying, “‘The books have a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil.'” At the time, the school principal, Jerry Locke, asked teachers to stop reading the books in classrooms until the issue was resolved. He said, “‘It’s questionable whether every parent wants their child to read or be exposed to books having to do with magic and wizardry.'”

Back in late 2002, there reportedly was an Anti-Harry Potter Conference in Lewiston, Maine. About 100 people attended to watch a minister cut up a copy of a Harry Potter book. They also watched a film that drew parallels between Harry Potter and “‘real'” witchcraft. The minister, Rev. Douglas Taylor, said, “‘I’m against Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz. I’m against any kind of movie or book that has a kind of magical or cultish theme to it.'” (Ahem, what about the Bible?)

Back in 2006, in Atlanta, Laura Mallory was said to think that “Harry Potter [was] something far more sinister than a fictional character.” It was also reported that “as far as [she] is concerned, the books help foster the kind of culture where school shootings take place. She believes that wouldn’t happen if students were reading the Bible instead.” (Has she actually read the Bible? It is rich with violence!)

So, the detest for anything Harry Potter has been well established here in the states. But, now, it seems, religious folk may have yet another reason to hate Harry Potter if all their other reasons weren’t enough. At least Daniel Radcliffe thinks they might.

Though many people have suspected that Daniel Radcliffe is an atheist for some time now, he confirmed it in an interview with Esquire according to a report published on the Telegraph Web site. The Harry Potter star said:

I’m an atheist, but I’m very relaxed about it. I don’t preach my atheism, but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do. Anything he does on television, I will watch.

He went on to say jokingly:

There we go, Dan, that’s half of America that’s not going to see the next Harry Potter film on the back of that comment.

Milk vs Punisher Warzone

A Christian Perspective on the Morality of Punisher Warzone (‘Very Offensive”) vs Milk (“Extremely Offensive”). Apparently being a gay activist is far more offensive than throwing people in glass bottle grinders, decapitating women, shooting people with grenade launchers and blasting people point blank in the face with shotguns.

‘Religulous’ a laugh-out-loud assault on organized religion

‘Religulous’ a laugh-out-loud assault on organized religion

Bill Maher is preaching to the choir with “Religulous,” a documentary that dissects organized religion, but he’s doing it in his laceratingly funny, typically sardonic way.

The comic has touched on this topic often in his standup act and on his HBO talk show “Real Time With Bill Maher,” but here he uses his formidable debating skills to go on a full, focused attack. Pretty much no one emerges unscathed (except those who practice Eastern religions, for some reason).

Although Maher’s mother was Jewish, he was raised in the Catholicism of his father’s side of the family; now he calls himself a rationalist, and thinks the idea that we all came from a garden with a talking snake is a fairy tale for overgrown children and crazies.

If you’re an atheist or an agnostic, you’ll be completely on board and happy to tag along with Maher as he travels the globe asking people about their faith — everywhere from Jerusalem to the Vatican to Amsterdam, where he finds not only the Cannabis Ministry but also a Muslim gay bar (with two people in it). At a makeshift truckers’ chapel in Raleigh, N.C., the drivers put their hands on his shoulders and pray in a circle that he’ll find the Lord (good luck with all that); at the shlocky Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Fla., Maher interviews the actor playing Jesus, a hippie who wears a headset microphone to perform on stage.

If you’re a true believer, though, you’ll probably be offended — and some of his subjects become visibly agitated with him on camera. Maher is surely smart enough to realize that his movie will convert no one, but he seems to get off on the thrill of the challenge nonetheless.

“Religulous” comes from director Larry Charles, who teamed up with Sacha Baron Cohen for “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” and it has a structure reminiscent of that 2006 comedy as well as similarly uproarious laughs. The ones on the receiving end of Maher’s Socratic-style questioning are often humorless — they don’t get that he’s toying with them — which makes the results even more absurdly amusing. The more Maher probes, the more hypocrisies he exposes.

Vicar supports Life of Brian ban

Vicar supports Life of Brian ban

A mayor’s plan to end her town’s ban on the 1979 Monty Python film Life of Brian are being opposed by the local vicar, who says it pokes fun at Jesus.

Sue Jones-Davies, who played Brian’s girlfriend in the movie, was amazed when she became mayor of Aberystwyth that it was still barred at the cinema.

But Reverend Canon Stuart Bell said Christians he spoke to in Ceredigion were still against it being shown.

The mayor declined to respond, but will still press for the ban to be lifted.

Long before she donned her mayoral robes in Aberystwyth, Ms Jones-Davies played Brian’s girlfriend in the cult movie.

However, when it was released, critics accused the Python team of blasphemy with its story about a Jewish man who was mistaken for the messiah and then crucified.

‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ (Ben Stein monkeys with evolution)

‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ (Ben Stein monkeys with evolution)

Droning funnyman Ben Stein monkeys around with evolution with the new documentary, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” a cynical attempt to sucker Christian conservatives into thinking they’re losing the “intelligent design” debate because of academic “prejudice.”

“Expelled” is a full-on, amply budgeted Michael Moore-styled mockery of evolution, a film that dresses creationist crackpottery in an “intelligent design” leisure suit and tries to make the fact that it’s not given credence in schools a matter of “academic freedom.”

Using loaded language and loaded imagery, Stein and Co. (Nathan Frankowski is the credited director) equate evolution with atheism, lay responsibility for the Holocaust at the feet of Charles Darwin, interview and creatively edit biologists and others (scientists “cast” for their eccentric appearance) to make them look foolish for insisting that science, not religion, can explain creation.

Stein and friends use animation (shades of “Bowling for Columbine”), amusing chunks of B-movies and even “The Wizard of Oz” and classic propaganda techniques to undercut 150 years of peer-tested research. Their goal? Create just a sliver of doubt about evolution. It’s a classic Big Tobacco/”Inconvenient Truth” denial tactic.