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Dakota Fanning in the controversial “Hounddog” film that features a child-rape scene
Family groups lobbying retailers not to carry “Hounddog,” the movie featuring the portrayed rape of child actress Dakota Fanning, have been given another two weeks to argue their point.
Confirmation comes from Empire Film Group, which introduced the movie to theaters where is brought in a stunningly low $12,500 in revenues for its first weekend.
The company has promised to release tomorrow the controversial project on DVD to try to recoup its expenses. But Empire officials say a storm – commonly called an “act of God” in insurance terminology – has prompted the delay.
Officials said the weather emergency throughout Arkansas “impacted Empire’s ability to assure simultaneous release of the anticipated DVD title.”
“The entire region has been virtually shut down for the past week,” said Jim Townsend, spokesman for Empire Film Group. “In order to level the competitive playing field and make sure that all retailers have the product available on the same date, we had to delay the release date until February 17, 2009. We apologize to consumers and retailers that have been impacted by this unfortunate weather event, and appreciate their support of this revised release date.”
WND reported earlier on a campaign asking parents to urge local retailers to halt the widespread sales of “Hounddog.”
Concerned Women for America, an organization that has monitored the progress of the project since it was in production in North Carolina, launched the campaign.
WND broke the store when the character played by popular child actress Fanning was “raped,” then followed up when pro-family interests sought a federal investigation and when the movie was released in theaters.
Eric Parkinson, Empire’s CEO of distribution, called the film “the proverbial ‘wait until DVD’ title.”
“Now that it’s being released to DVD and Blu-Ray, the film is finally positioned to reach the large audience it deserves,” he said.
The film, however, has drawn opposition from family groups who cite scenes of a teasing child who promises a kiss to a boy if he exposes himself, then later gyrates to the tune of “Hounddog” and is sexually assaulted by a man.
“That’s pretty much the storyline of ‘Hounddog,'” CWA said.
“Stores that you know and trust will be stocking their shelves with this dubious film, but you can stop them by making a call to their local office,” the group said.
CWA President Wendy Wright said, “Customers expect that DVDs sold at respectable stores are, well, respectable. When a store sells a product, they are in essence putting their stamp of approval on the product. Store managers, buyers, and executives may not be aware of how objectionable ‘Hounddog’ is, or that they could be complicit in the abuse of children by distributing the film.
“Theater chains recognized the serious problems with ‘Hounddog’ and declined to show it. The next step in the distribution chain is online and retail stores. By asking them not to carry ‘Hounddog,’ people can help ensure that child porn is not mainstreamed into their neighborhoods,” she said.
Donna Miller, the organization’s chapter leader in Fayetteville, N.C., has led opposition to the movie with a campaign called “No More Child Porn.”
CWA reported the campaign, along with the efforts of Ted Baehr’s Movieguide, resulted in more than 200 movie theaters pulling the film from their screens.
“‘Hounddog’ is a benchmark movie. We have to ask ourselves if our society is ready to accept sexualizing fourth graders,” Miller said.
CWA said anyone concerned should contact the managers of local movie retailers and rental stores such as Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Wal-Mart and contact Amazon.com and Netflix to cancel their contracts.
The organization said the contacts are:
Jeffrey P. Bezos, President
1200 12th Ave. South, Ste. 1200
Seattle, WA 98144-2734
Reed Hastings, President
100 Winchester Cir.
Los Gatos, CA 95032
Movieguide has included its effort to keep “Hounddog” out of theaters in its top five “Cultural Events of 2008.”
The movie has been in trouble since its production, when WND broke the story about objections to its content.
The film was subsidized by about $390,000 in tax money from the residents of North Carolina. But just days before its theater release, blogger Steve Pill was reporting on the apparent verdict from the public.
“I received a somewhat rueful message of congratulations from Eric Parkinson, the CEO of distribution for Empire Film Group,” he wrote. “According to him, more than 200 theaters across the country had cancelled their scheduled screenings of the motion picture ‘Hounddog,’ citing pressure from ‘vocal groups.'”
Fanning’s behavior in the movie has been described as more explicit than what was required of Jodie Foster, who as a 12-year-old played a prostitute in “Taxi Driver,” a 1976 Martin Scorsese production, or Brooke Shields, who was a New Orleans brothel worker in the “Pretty Baby” movie from 1978.
“These despicable movies promote pedophilia, whether intentionally or unintentionally,” said Baehr. “There should be a massive public outcry against them. The inclusion of children in sexually explicit films is inappropriate. There also is no excuse for the authorities to allow such material to be shown publicly.”
Said Miller, “Much has been made about the rape scene regarding lighting – indicating that it was done in taste, etc. But there is no doubt that Fanning’s character asked a boy to expose himself, that she would give him a kiss for doing so, and had done so with other boys. What does this tell other little girls.”
Reports have said prosecutors in North Carolina reviewed the movie in late 2007, interviewing crew members, producers and Fanning, who was 12 when the movie was made. The prosecutors said some people might find the film “disturbing and distasteful,” but there was no evidence that the scene constituted “sexual activity” under North Carolina law,.
The film project is by Deborah Kampmeier, who has said opponents were “projecting their anger and their fear onto my film.”
“A lot of agendas are being projected off this film that have nothing to do with the film, and they’re being projected onto it by people who haven’t actually seen the film,” she said.