I had the opportunity recently to attend a screening / preview the Irwin brothers film October Baby. This film highlights the victims of abortion, but more specifically abortion survivors. The fictitious story centers around a teenager, Hannah, who discovers that she was adopted, and was a survivor of a botched abortion. October Baby focuses on all those that were impacted with her survival in one way or another, including the attending abortion center nurse, birth mother, adoptive parents, and of course, the teenager herself.
A “Christian Film” It Is Not
Even though the screening included footage of the Irwin brothers expressing great joy over being able to enter into the “Christian film industry,” (a term which I am not wholly friendly towards), I would argue that October Baby is not a Christian film. Though it may have some common feelings with Christianity (and I did say “feelings”), if it retains the Christian film nomenclature it should win the award for being the “most covert.” The film makes reference to little that would be characteristically Christian. The writers and producers seemed to be so concerned about not offending viewers by word or action that all such things are left out.
October Baby contains no church involvement. The one church that is brought into the film is a Catholic church where Hannah wanders to and occasions to speak with a priest. Hannah (the abortion survivor) expresses that she is a “Baptist,” but is helped by the priest. Apparently her Baptist upbringing had no effect or ability to help her in this time of struggle. Sharing that her implied Christian involvement could not sustain her or assist her misses the Christian message, and actually degrades the intent of the film. She is a Christian and doesn't know what to do? The Christian walk centers around interaction with a local body of disciples who learn the Word and help each other. Hannah has no such connection or help evident. Was this scene just a gesture to appeal in a more ecumenical way? Market is the message?
October Baby makes no clear references to Scripture. To say that a film is Christian and leave out Scripture is, well, unchristian. If the goal is to appeal to the Truth, and proclaim the Truth, why not share some Truth? I caught no references to the Word in this drama.
October Baby contains no clear Christian conversation or conduct. I found myself in strange territory when this fictional Baptist with her fictional Baptist parents had no Christian words amongst themselves. In fact, I was trying to figure out why these supposed Christian parents would have failed to tell this adoptive daughter of theirs about her adoption or her being the survivor of an abortion (and other things that I will not share so as not to spoil the movie for those that have not seen it). I was in a further quandary why such a Christian girl would take off on a co-ed spring break and end up in compromising situations such as being in a motel room alone with a single boy. That is not conduct encouraged in any Christian group I’ve ever known.
October Baby provides no clear Christian takeaway. This may sound repetitious, but this film leaves one with feelings, not facts. The feelings are not bad; they are just incomplete without something to hang them on. The Truth sets one free, not emotions. In a truly Christian film, one should walk away with something very clear to think about, not just a sense of emotional pain.
A Mixed-Up Market
I would suggest that the writers and producers confused their audience, and lost the full impact that they could have had. The film , when analyzed (as opposed to experienced) leaves things painfully incomplete. Something is missing when appealing to the Christian, and more is missing if the intent is to appeal to the non-believer.
It is very apparent that October Baby is written to appeal to the unchurched and irreligious. The message is presented in a way to appeal primarily at an emotional level, touching on the pain abortion causes, especially surrounding failed abortion. The film seems to go to great lengths to avoid any real Christian connection, to the point of not sharing one.
The film offers no action for Christ followers. Even though the “Christian film industry” seeks to activate the Church to sell their wares, this film gives nothing concrete to know or do for those that want to act. Further, at least from my view, it tries to sell a Christian story that is very unchristian, even foreign to those actively attending and serving in a local Christian assembly, and seeking to learn and live the truths taught in the Word of God.
Even though I was given the privilege to view this screening for free, I felt a little used. I was challenged to promote this so that more such films could be made. That seems to be a self-justifying market. “Please come and see our movies, so that we can make more.” That pitch would work on any product anywhere, if you can find those to do what they are told without discernment. Make a good movie, and we’ll spread the word about it.
Two Detracting Observations
In this film there were enough technical gaffs to actually catch my attention, and such attention to detail when viewing a movie is usually not something for which I am known (ask my kids). Jumpy camera shots were plentiful. Scene mistakes were also evident (tears on cheeks in one shot, missing in the next; the priest walking far away and the audio footsteps not matching his stride, etc.). It was not a technical disaster, but it was not a stellar work in that area either.
If you like crying, you will like October Baby. There is much crying in the film, which seems to encourage crying at the film. I felt that the crying was largely “see and do likewise” rather than from any powerful scenes which made you want to cry because of content. It came across very manufactured. I think I’ve mentioned “emotion” enough times already that you get the picture. Make people cry because of your message, not because you have people crying in front of them.
One Major Concern
From a pro-life perspective, I walked away from October Baby confused. This is due partly to the exclusive focus of the film on the abortion survivor at the cost of any emphasis on those that do not survive abortions (where the abortionists actually succeed in killing the babies). This confusion is also due to comments by the writers and producers (in the screening, not in the actual film) that seemed to miss that truth as well. All abortions kill babies. Some survive abortions, but that story is not worse than any of the 54,000,000+ “successful” abortions that have taken place to date since Roe v. Wade.
There is even a level of confusion which I believe could even be construed by some to think that we need to make sure there are no unexpected survivors of abortion. Some could really walk away with that thought. “If it is this bad, we need to make sure that no one accidentally survives an abortion.” Refer back to the need for clear Christian information.
Though the film is presented as a contribution to the Christian film market, October Baby accomplishes that only by weak implication. There are no clear or overt Christian messages spoken or presented.
The film does encourage people to consider how others are affected by abortions, and more specifically, failed abortions. However, it does so on a subjective feelings level, with no presentation of absolute truth or principles. Though it may get people thinking about abortion and its consequences, maybe it will be used by some to introduce the topic for further truth-based discussion. and maybe it will even encourage some to decide against having one, the film falls short in presenting the foundational truth of the value of life, or any clear Christian truth. -- KES