Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thoughts On 12-Year-Old Dakota Fanning's Rape Scene

A big collective shrug was the reaction following the first public screening at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday night of Hounddog.

That's the movie that had been labeled controversial due to the fact that 12-year-old actress Dakota Fanning portrays a girl who is raped by an older youth.

The Catholic League and other child protection advocates denounced the film, saying that the filmmakers should have cast a young-looking adult rather than a child actress.

The scene in question is so restrained, however, and so far from exploitative, that objections are likely to fade once the movie is more widely seen. (It is still seeking a distributor.)

Fanning is shot almost exclusively from the shoulders up in the scene, her face expressing her character's terror, plus a few quick shots cut in of her hand or leg trembling.

What moviegoers might object to is the film itself.
A swampy tale mired in southern gothic stereotypes, Hounddog meanders mightily in telling how its young heroine overcomes rape, lousy relatives and an obsession with Elvis Presley.

On the positive side, there are all-stops-out performances by Fanning and costar Robin Wright Penn (who also served as a producer).

Director-screenwriter Deborah Kampmeier, who said she spent 10 years trying to get the film made, said during a Q&A session after the premiere that she hoped the film would help bring the problem of child rape into the open and focus discussion and attention on the crime.

Penn, who joined the project six years ago, said, "This film is about survival."
I saw a brief interview with the director and she said that everyone opposing the film hasn't even seen it. What she said seems to be true as far as the commentary I've read on a few sites.

I feel like I should see what all the rage is about before jumping in and joining the opposition. It feels like a tough call. My biggest question is, what's the overall message of the film?

And, ya, why couldn't they use an older actor who looks young? Doing so wouldn't strike up as much controversy... hmmm...


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