Two movies for atheists to watch out for

Two movies for atheists to watch out for June 6, 2010

TWO very different movies that focus on faith-based fanaticism have been brought to our attention this week.
The first is Agora, which stars Rachel Weisz. It is an epic film that recounts the story of Hypatia Of Alexandria, a pagan philosopher who was killed for her political beliefs.
It has just opened in a limited number of cinemas in the US to great acclaim, but has been utterly condemned by the Catholic Church.
Just days before the release last year in Europe of Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar’s movie, religious organisations denounced the film for promoting hatred of Christians and reinforcing false clichés about the Catholic Church.
The President of the Religious Anti-Defamation Observatory in Spain – Antonio Alonso Marcos – sent an open letter to Amenabar, also known for his pro-euthanasia film The Sea Inside, denouncing the film’s anti-Christian bias.

The reason for my letter is to make you realize something that you already know but have dismissed as unimportant: your film is going to awaken hatred against Christians in today’s society. You present a biased view of the relationship between science and the Church, between faith and reason …

Marcos reminded Amenabar of comments made by people who had seen a private screening of the film. At the end of the film, people sitting near Amenabar were heard to say:

Christians are a bunch of sons of bitches.

Marcos continued in his letter:

This has been and will be the reaction of the public in general, and you know it. Is that what you were looking for? To throw manure on an institution that today helps millions of human beings to live and enjoy life to the fullest.

A still from The Evangelist
Amenabar insists that the film:

Is not against Christians but rather against those who set off bombs and kill in the name of God, that is, against religious fanatics.

Marcos then questioned why the director had not recreated situations like those that take place in the Middle East.
The second film, The Evangelist, premieres on the internet next month, and tells the story of Gideon Bellamont (played by Lucas Fox Philips), a flaxen-haired, 12-year-old fanatic who is determined to convert liberal Provincetown, Massachusetts, to his fire-and-brimstone brand of Christianity. When his efforts fail, the young zealot devises increasingly radical schemes to win over converts – to the point where killing in the name of God is not out of the question.
The result is a darkly comic fable and allegorical critique on the excesses of fundamentalism.
See the trailer here:
Hat tip: William Harwood and Kathy Adams

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  • Any chance I could get a copy of Agora on DVD in the near future? It sounds like a movie I’d like to do a showing of…

  • Janstince

    Typical church response: the church isn’t responsible for the bad things it’s done, because it helps millions of people, people probably worse off for their help than they were without it. Noting missionaries, feudal systems, the dark ages, etc.

  • So any film to which the church objects should be censored?
    The strength of their faith in their own institutions is risible indeed.

  • Har Davids

    ‘Why do people make us look bad?’ is such an easy question to answer, isn’t it? Because your co-religionists, through the ages, have done so much shit towards others only to please their imaginary bully-friend, without giving a thought of their victims. But don’t worry, we won’t do to you what you have done to others.
    Now we’ll wait until when we can go and see these movies.

  • MrGronk

    “Marcos then questioned why the director had not recreated situations like those that take place in the Middle East.”
    Er, yeah …. Hypatia was murdered and skinned on the orders of “Saint” Cyril in Alexandria. That’s fairly middle-eastern, I would have thought.

  • ZombieHunter

    these morons never learn do they.
    the more you call for something to be banned or censored the more people will want to see it/read it/ play it.
    I think the evangilist looks good though.

  • Justin

    your film is going to awaken hatred against Christians in today’s society

    Does he mean in the same way Christians incite or have incited hatred against the gays, the jews, the atheists, scientists, philosophers, freethinkers etc.?
    Anyway, I say let’s have them condemn it as often and as loudly as they can. As someone else has already mentioned: the more you call for something to be banned, the more people become interested in seeing it.

  • Ziggy

    “Amenabar insists that the film is not against Christians.” Why can’t a film, book, article, etc. be against Christians if it has valid points to make? Are Christians sacrosanct, like the Muslims?

  • Broadsword

    The Religious Anti-Defamation Observatory in Spain. It’s all in the name isn’t it? Intolerant of criticism, howling at whatever “offends” them. Well that’s just tough, I think I’ll enjoy Agora.
    I fancy The Evangelist too, but I think I’ll give it a miss. WHY was it filmed in black and white? We made films in this format until something better came along. For me, it doesn’t make it artsy, quirky or intersting. It’s just harder to watch.
    @Jessica Sideways
    You can buy yourself a copy of Agora here:

  • I enjoyed Agora. It started shakily, but when it hit its stride it was horribly fascinating, watching the forces of reason succumb to the evil, semitic mind-virus that is xtianity.
    Not totally accurate, in places, though: Hypatia didn’t have anything to with heliocentrism, for a start.
    Also, the church should be thanking Amenábar for pulling his punches when it comes to Hypatia’s death: her actual end was far more grisly than that portrayed in the film.

  • Broadsword

    I had no idea Hypatia Of Alexandria was a historical figure until I read Tim Danaher’s post. She’s in Wikipedia:

  • Vince

    I’ve seen Agora and enjoyed the movie. It does show Christians in a bad light. Could you imagine if someone made a movie that showed the muslims in a bad light.

  • Kev

    I have always worn religiously approved underwear. It says St Michael in the back of ’em.

  • elainek123

    Great.Looking forward to these films and also to the latest that the Catholics are angry as they put it .about that the UK broadcaster Channel 4 that has chosen a noted gay human-rights campaigner to present an hour-long documentary about Pope Benedict’s visit to the country in September.
    The broadcaster has commissioned Peter Tatchell to front the programme, even though he is one of the founders of a group called Protest the Pope.
    They can give out but not take in. Typical religion, no way to argue their case but to want to have anything that contridicts their dogma stopped.

  • Adam Tjaavk

    Charles Bradlaugh’s daughter was
    named after Hypatia of Alexandria
    Women Without Superstition: Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner
    More Agora links
    Agora – official website
    Wikipedia: Agora (film)
    IMDb: Agora

  • Broga

    @elainek123 They needn’t worry – the RCs, I mean – as the BBC are already gearing up to give Ratzinger a big welcome. The RC mafia within the BBC are already wetting themselves with excitement that he might, possiblly, if they keep praying, make an appearance on Thought for the Day. You may be sure the bullshit will be 100 per cent and the vile activities of ths man and the outfit he heads played down.
    It really makes me spit. If the Channel 4 programme had asked some jumped up RC bishop instead of Peter Tatchell to host the programme they would have been saying, “wonderful, inspired choice etc.”

  • Katherine Adams

    @ Broadsword
    I see what you mean. I actually saw the film at a sneak preview and felt the same way initially. But I was quickly won over. It really was appropriate and gave the film an eery, expressionistic feel, like an Edward Gorey drawing. And, honestly, black and white has certainly not been replaced by color. Just think about Good Night and Good Luck.

  • Stonyground

    Would it be an interesting parallel to say that the British Empire and colonialism was a questionable part of our history? When I was growing up, the stuff that was taught in school suggested that Britain had brought civilisation to all these backward and primitive countries. This could charitably be described as a partial truth. I only became aware of the darker side of colonialism later, but if I am honest, I have to admit that the bad stuff happened and that I benifitted from it even though it happened before I was born.
    Christianity in general, and the RCC in particular have a great number of very smelly skeletons in their closet. They can’t deny this so they claim that anyone that draws attention to them is persecuting them.
    They should also be reminded that by far the most enthusiastic persecutors of Christians have always been other Christians.

  • Mike

    Its kind of hard to think of occasions where the church has held back on supporting movies that put jews, atheists or other religions in a worse light. If they genuinly were concernwed that this sort of thing stired up tensions between beliefs and non beliefs they would not support fils like Gibsons Christ film. What they realy object to is free speech when it doesn’t support their own purposes. And this is what we must defend. And if they want the right to spout their own propoganda at people then they ought to be fair and uphold the rights of others to do the same. Why should anyone else be prohibited from from telling anchient stories – the church just want a monopoly.

  • Chem Eng

    We saw Agora when it first came out- we were the only 2 people in the cinema for a late showing on Saturday night (Dudley – not in the vanguard of the enlightenment, clearly). It’s a good film, if a bit long. Definitely anti (early) Xian with obvious modern parallels.

  • (Please excuse my name. I like it, but it does not indicate any religious commitment. My mom wanted to have three girls and name them Faith, Hope and Charity. )I saw Agora last weekend and really enjoyed it. Amenabar distorted a lot of history in service to his art, but that’s what artists do and I don’t fault him for that. He was trying to indict religious fanaticism in all its forms. Folks who are interested in the historical Hypatia should pick up the biography Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995) – highly readable! Also I have a series of posts on my blog ( covering the historical events and characters depicted by the film – not a movie review, just a “reel” vs. “real” discussion, but there are spoilers!

  • MrGronk

    Plenty of movies show muslims in a bad light. The US Arab anti-defamation committee published an obsessively detailed book about it (their pet hates are Schwarzenegger’s “True Lies” and “The Mummy”).

  • The joys of living in a free society. Free at present at least. Finally got to see Bill Mahers film “Religulous”. It’s finally been released on DVD in Australia. Took a while to get here. We need athiest/ atheism inspired movies. Hollywood is full of Babblical epics, you know, the Cecil b DeMille type things. Non-belivers follow a different path, a route followed by many others. The alternative offer needs to be in the market place. Atheism hasn’t got the vast war chest of the churches, no flashy bulidings, no colourful robe thingies or any of that marketing stuff. We have to rely on disparate contributions, done quietly, but effectivly. By the way, “Religulous” was good, but Maher got a bit soft with the churchies, specially the middle eastern looking bloke.

  • Ex Patriot

    I will be looking forward to seeing these movies as soon as possible. I live in a small country in Europe and will have to see if the DVD is around

  • Mek

    Reading through the comments it seems Marcus predicted things quite well. This movie will be the spark for a great deal of hate towards Christians. Some people clearly can’t handle such movies.
    I found this movie quite interesting and there will most likely be more in the future but, although I’m looking forward to it I can’t help but feel there are going to be some horrible consequences to it.

  • The Evangelist has been chosen from early/regular deadline submissions to the International Freethought Film Festival to be screened at our first annual event. We will be presenting a sneak preview of what the film festival is all about, and the Evangelist will be screened as part of the sneak preview. The date/place of the screening should be announced within the next couple of days. We hope that The Freethinker is still considering potential sponsorship of the film festival. 🙂