Movies

Man with a plan

By Kediesha Perry
Observer writer

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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Amidst heated abortion debates locally and internationally, American film producer Michael Manhardt believes Unplanned, his debut project, is timely.

“The timing is amazing. Six years ago when God said: 'Not yet', we were confused, but if we tried to do it six years ago it would not have made the same impact culturally and helped people to realise the importance and sacredness of life, and why it should be preserved,” the 54-year-old told the Jamaica Observer.

Unplanned's Jamaican premiere takes place this evening at Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston. Manhardt hopes it will impact viewers.

“I've been to Jamaica seven times and the people are beautiful and vibrant. It would be an absolute shame if the movie wasn't shown to the life-loving hearts. It will make what we refer to in the United States as 'pro-life' people more excited to live life,” he said. “We believe the movie can change lives and hearts. In America, many college students and many teenagers who once saw themselves as or believed in 'pro-choice' change their outlook. This movie sensitises hearts and souls and we hope that it'll have an impact on culture.”

Produced by independent company Soli Deo Gloria, Unplanned was released in the United States on March 29. It follows the true story of Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas.

In 2011, Johnson and author Cindy Lambert wrote a book of the same title. Johnson's story chronicles her transition to Planned Parenthood and her departure eight years later. The R-rated drama shows why an abortion industry insider reversed her stance on this controversial topic.

Unplanned has grossed US16.6m at the box office.

“It took US$6 million to make the film and another US$7 million to market, so in total it cost us US$13 million. It was shot in secret in Stillwater, Oklahoma for six weeks and 950 people that were a part of production were able to keep that secret of six weeks,” Manhardt explained.

Abortion was made illegal in Jamaica under sections 72 and 73 of the 1864 Offences Against the Person Act. Women and their doctors can be charged with felonious assault for procuring or facilitating an abortion, and they can be imprisoned for life if they are found guilty. However, statistics show that 10 per cent of pregnancies in Jamaica are aborted.

The issue is contentious in the United States, intensifying on May 15 when Alabama's governor approved a ban on abortion.

Manhardt said he has support from several pro-life groups.

“I grew up a very strong Catholic and as a result I've built relationships with people who share the same values…successful businessmen and women who are wealthy. We also went to individuals. In addition, there is also a pro-life Christian foundation and pro-life organisation, so the money was pooled together for the project. We received a 27 per cent tax credit from the state of Oklahoma to begin paying off investors, so that's great,” he told the Observer.

The producer anticipates other productions in the future.

“I'm looking forward to other movies but right now we're focused on the international marketing of Unplanned and we want to get it on DVD soon. We know that there will be other movies, but we're hoping to make it more western-themed and more light-hearted because this movie is pretty serious,” he said.


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