Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Alleged the Movie - A Fresh Look at the Scopes Monkey Trial

Frederick Foote went to Harvard, practiced Law for a short time in New York, and ultimately ended up in banking. His movie career began when he was one of the early investors for The Passion of the Christ and another movie Bella. The Skopes Monkey Trial was a story that he always wanted to see told from the moment he researched it, even going back to college, and it was then that he began working on the script and eventually assembled the team to bring Alleged to film. He considers it one of his great achievements that he has been able to draw more attention to the Scopes trial, and particularly William Jennings Bryan - A Christian man that fought the worst kind of racists bent on sterilizing tens thousands of men and women in the name of improving the human gene pool. Alleged has been an important milestone in Fred’s quest to drive attention to this cause.

I had the opportunity to talk with Fred about his new movie and about the issues of eugenics and evolution. To listen to the interview with Fred Foote, click here or scroll down.

Film SynopsisCharles Anderson (Nathan West) feels trapped writing for his deceased father’s meager newspaper and living in a tiny town (Dayton, TN) in steep decline. Local news is scarce in Dayton but in yonder Nashville the populist statesman and Christian fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan (Fred Thompson) stirs up the Tennessee legislature to pass an anti-evolution statute. At Robinson’s Drugstore a few local entrepreneurs, keen on a way to channel 20,000 or so folks into dying Dayton for a look-see, concoct a friendly scheme for the small town to host the “Trial of the Century” — they just need a teacher at the high school willing to claim that he taught evolution. John Scopes (Jamie Kolacki) obliges despite never having taught evolution to anybody that he can recall.

When the notorious agnostic Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) agrees to defend Scopes and meet the Great Commoner in a battle to see which theory of mankind’s origin is the fittest (the Bible’s or Darwin’s), the entire world shows up and Dayton becomes the enter of the journalistic universe. Once in the midst of this staged event, however, Nathan is torn between his love for the more principled Rose Williams (Ashley Johnson), his fiancée, and the escalating moral compromises that he is asked to make as the eager protégé of H.L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun (Colm Meaney), America’s most colorful and influential columnist. Complicating matters is Rose’s half-sister of mixed race, Abigail (Khori Faison), who local doctors feel is a candidate for sterilization to prevent her, on Darwinian grounds, from propagating her supposedly inferior genes.

Alleged is a true story of conflicts that boiled over in 1925 but that remain simmering with us to this day — evolution and creation, the role of science in social policy, and media sensationalism motivated by religious and political biases on all sides. When the truth is at stake, Charles discovers, some lies just have to be told.

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