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BOSTON — Benjamin Flora may be the youngest person to ever earn starring credit in a film. He made his debut before birth via 3-D ultrasound imaging in “A Distant Thunder.”
His image in the short courtroom drama also contributed to saving at least one life.
His parents, Jonathan and Deborah Flora — the film’s producer and lead character — recounted the story in a Jan. 10 interview.
“A college student in Los Angeles was considering an abortion,” Jonathan said. Then she watched the movie, decided against the abortion, and showed the movie to her boyfriend.
“After it was over he looked at her and said, ‘We can’t do this; let’s get married’ —They’re expecting a boy. We’re very excited about that,” Jonathan said.
The film, which centers on partial-birth abortion, was shown Jan. 15 at Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s Annual Interfaith Assembly for Life at Faneuil Hall. During the film’s production, Deborah was 11 weeks pregnant with Benjamin, their second child.
“This was the biggest challenge to me,” said the former Miss Colorado. “The irony of the subject matter while I was in that condition was a challenge, but luckily I felt great and it added a lot to my character that I could draw on.”
Another irony was that temporary infertility first motivated the couple to tackle the film.
“A few years ago doctors told us that we could not have our own children,” Jonathan said. “We were caught in this contradiction of praying so hard to have our own natural born children, and yet the world and America was aborting babies at the rate of 4,500 a day.
“It was during this time that I was on-line that I stumbled across partial-birth abortion. I was completely shocked when I discovered what it was,” he said.
Jonathan reasoned that to really educate a secular audience about the brutal procedure, he had to touch hearts and not preach. So he blended the suspense and human interest of a supernatural thriller with courtroom drama as the forum where medical facts could be presented.
“There are three centers that really form and shape our country and the power that it is,” Deborah said. “There’s capitalism, which is in Washington D.C.; there’s commerce in New York; and there’s culture, which is in LA. And what many of the leaders in our country have told us is that they can only legislate that which is already happening in the culture.”
“The first challenge was trying to find somebody willing to make a movie about this subject matter,” Jonathan said. “As you can imagine, this is not the flavor of the month, especially in Hollywood.”
One by one, the challenges were met. Producer Kip Perry came on board, then the right cast and private investors were found.
“The result was an answer to a lot of prayers to be honest,” Deborah said. “Everyone who worked on this project — cast and crew — works professionally in the industry.”
Feedback has been positive. The film will be highlighted Jan. 23 at the annual March for Life in Washington D.C.
It gained wide secular exposure Jan. 14 at the American Film Renaissance-Hollywood Festival at the Mann’s Chinese 6 Theatres. There, Flora was able to meet with Gary Sinise, Patricia Heaton and other celebrities.
Like the lead character in the film, Jonathan’s own opinion about abortion evolved with time and experience. “During my earlier years I was not pro-life and I unfortunately made a decision to support an abortion years ago in college,” the filmmaker said. “That’s something that I’ve had to come to terms with and grips with and I’ve been able to do that.”
Taking responsibility for our actions is one underlying theme of the film. In the same way as thunder rumbles in the distance, Jonathan said, “we need to realize there’s a storm on the horizon as a result of the decisions we make today, and we need to start making more moral decisions.”
He said he is hoping that if people really know about partial-birth abortion, they will be more open to evaluate the abortion issue in general.
The only negative reaction the film has produced is “a very visceral, emotional reaction that has nothing to do with the facts,” Deborah said. “Honestly, that’s part of what we’re hoping will happen. If we don’t shake people up a little bit out of their complacency, they won’t take a look at a subject that they would much rather ignore. We really did this to save some lives.”
[ More information on the film is available by visiting www.adistantthunder.com.]