Unholy row over movie

Two cinemas in Cayman have come under fire from the Cayman Ministers’ Association for plans to screen The Golden Compass, a children’s fantasy film based on an award-winning book series that has been described as anti-Christian.

The Golden Compass

The Cayman Ministers’ Association has expressed concern about anti-Christian themes in The Golden Compass. Cinemas in Cayman will begin screening the film 7 December. For their part, the cinemas say people should be able to decide for themselves what they see.

Hollywood Cinemas at Camana Bay will open its doors 7 December with the film, which is based on the first book in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The Marquee Cinema will also screen the movie from 7 December, the films international premiere date.

While stopping short of calling for a boycott of the film, the CMA says it wants parents to be forewarned about the content of the film and the book series.

In a statement Monday, it described Pullman as a ‘noted English atheist whose objective is to promote atheism as a belief system.’ It adds that Pullman is said to have made remarks about his desire to ‘kill god in the minds of children’.

It also derided as ‘ironic’, Hollywood Cinema’s decision to donate all proceeds from the film’s opening weekend screening to D.A.R.E, a children’s drug resistance education program.

While conceding that the PG13 rated Golden Compass is described as toned down for the big screen, the ministers said the movie would be bait for the book series.

They described the second book in the series as ‘more overt in its hatred of Christianity than the first book’, and the third, the Amber Spyglass as ‘even more blatant again’.

‘Unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be urged to buy the three books as a Christmas present,’ the statement read. ‘And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books.

‘Although the movie promises to be fairly non-controversial, it may very well act as an inducement to buy Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. We should always remember that his twin goals are to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, and his target audience is our children.’

Supporters of the book – including notable Christian figures – contend the Pullman’s books are polemics against the use of religion as a means of oppression and the use of god for political purposes.

First published in the UK in 1995 as Northern Lights, the book won the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction and earlier this year, it was selected by judges of the Carnegie Medal as one of the 10 most important children’s novels of the past 70 years.

One such supporter is the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has said the trilogy should be taught as part of religious education in schools.

Supporters of the book series have also expressed disappointment at reports the movie studio behind the film has sanitized the movie to avoid controversy.

Susanna Blackburn, Communications Manager with Dart Reality (Cayman) Ltd, the company leasing the theatre premises to Hollywood Theatres, said Hollywood Cinemas don’t see it as their role to censor what people can and can’t see.

‘The international release date is 7 December, which is our opening weekend. That’s why they are showing The Golden Compass that weekend,’ she said.

‘It has been rated PG13, so parental guidance is recommended.

‘It really is up to the individual parents whether they decide to take their children to the film or not.’

Responding to the CMA’s concerns, Marquee Theatre Operations Manager Scott Graham said people should be able to make up their own mind about what they see.

‘I personally am an ordained man and I rose through holy orders in the church … but we really frown upon people judging and banning and forbidding when they haven’t even seen it themselves,’ he said.

‘There are certainly parents here in the Cayman Islands that may be agnostic or atheist and they may consider it is a wonderful picture for their children to watch.

‘Maybe for some very religious families, it may end up being a definition by negation of what spiritual truth is.’

If parents are concerned about the picture they should go and watch it by themselves first before deciding whether it is appropriate for their children, Mr. Graham said.

While he respects the CMA’s concerns, Mr. Graham said history has shown that campaigns against screening movies ends up making people more curious, leading to bigger attendances.

‘I am a Christian myself and sometime I feel like, if I could, I would make the decision to not show certain pictures because they have the wrong message.

‘But there is a certain ethic in the motion picture industry that what is available and being shown should be shown because the people have a right to see it and the people have a right to decide for themselves.’

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