The attitude behind the response by a Christian film critic who called the rape scene in the movie child abuse and similar complaints by groups such as the Catholic League seems to be one of denial.
"Hounddog" is the story of Lewellen, a girl played by 12-year-old Dakota Fanning, who is growing up in the 1960s South. She is a free-spirit obsessed with Elvis Presley and has little supervision by her abusive father and alcoholic grandmother.
[...] Fanning is defending her work as well as the movie, and so is the head of Sundance, who said it was courageous for director Deborah Kampmeier to tackle "challenging material." "Hounddog" is entered in the festival's dramatic category.
The reality that many children have of being raped will be less likely to change if we insist that films pretend this type of violence never happens or if they must sanitize the depiction until the harm done can be minimized by those who commit these types of crimes.
The Smoking Gun has a copy of the rape scene from the shooting script of Hounddog. One of the elements which struck me about the scene is how trust is used as a weapon.
The furor over "Hounddog" was poised to peak Monday night with the film's Sundance Film Festival premiere at the Racquet Club Theater.
Instead of the usual post-screening Q&A, the producers scheduled a panel that included stars Dakota Fanning and Robin Wright Penn, director Deborah Kempmeier and a representative from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The idea was to create a forum to discuss the film's child rape issues and combat what's become, as one person close to the film said, "a circus."
Since director Deborah Kampmeier views the rape scene as being a necessary part of the story (as a rape survivor I understand how an event like this impacts everything about a character's life) and since there are ways to film a scene so it has less emotional impact on the actors than it would have on viewers of the finished film, the mere existance of the scene doesn't prove any harm has been done to underage actors.
For me the bigger issue is whether the film as a whole brings something positive to the actors and to those who view the film. If the film explores how a child works through trauma and finds realistic hope then it could be a real contribution.
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