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Lake of Fire

Seeing choice, in shades of gray
By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  October 24, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars

VIDEO: Watch the trailer for Lake of Fire.

Sixteen years in the making, Tony Kaye’s head-on, two-and-a-half-hour black-and-white documentary plays out the abortion issue not as a debate but as a war — violent and prolonged — over the ideology of life and the territory of a woman’s body. Kaye, who directed American History X, gives equal face time to each side of the battle, though men, on both sides, feature much more frequently than women. Some anti-choice figures from the religious right are portrayed as hate-mongering zealots, like the sickening Paul Hill, who advocates the execution of doctors who perform abortions. (He murders a doctor and is himself executed as a result.) Others from that camp come across as well-organized and persuasive. One of the most chilling moments: Norma McCorvey, otherwise known as “Jane Roe,” talks of being terrorized after Roe v. Wade, harassed in public, suicidal. Operation Rescue, a Christian pro-life group, moves into the lot next to the clinic where McCorvey worked. She’s seduced, convinced that she’s “responsible for all the dead babies”; she now works for OR. The pro-choice voices — Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky among them — lack the frenzied, God-on-our-side, right-wrong mentality. They talk of needs and situations, gray areas, and the values of both side: preserving life is legitimate; choice is legitimate.

Besides pore-close interviews on philosophy, religion, and the question of when life starts, Kaye also films abortion procedures. These are gruesome and graphic; he says he shot in black and white because to see this in full color would be too much to witness. That’s especially true of the 20-week abortion. The machinery vacuums out the fetus, and amid the blood and tissue, the doctor searches for parts in a metal tray: two hands, a foot with toes, and, finally, the head, eyeball still intact. We still have the right to choose, Kaye seems to say, but we should know what that choice looks like.

  Topics: Reviews , Abortion, Noam Chomsky, Paul Hill
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