Speculation about who will receive what honor at the Academy Awards starts early and runs right through the ceremony itself. So let me openly campaign for a person who I believe should receive a major standing ovation that night. This has nothing to do with Whoopi or Mel. No, I hope that Hollywood shines a spotlight, somehow, on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, once of Somalia and currently -- in hiding -- in the Netherlands. I will let a Dallas Morning News editorial from this week pick up the story:
In 2003, she was elected to the Dutch Parliament but has had to go into hiding on several occasions after receiving death threats. Her most recent retreat into the underground came after the Nov. 2 slaughter of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam. Police have charged a Muslim extremist with that murder. Ms. Hirsi Ali collaborated with the assassinated artist on Submission, an 11-minute film . . . protesting the condition of women under Islam. A note pinned to the dead man's chest with a dagger said she would be next.
Hirsi Ali has vowed to carry on, including plans for a sequel to Submission (which is accessible at iFilm.com). The issue, according to the editorial, is what activists in the rest of the world can do to help protect her, especially "artists, writers, political activists and feminists."
Maybe, maybe not. It's been more than week since The Wall Street Journal ran a column by Catholic writer Bridget Johnson titled "Look Who Isn't Talking: A filmmaker is murdered, and Hollywood loudmouths say nothing." The topic is old, by now, but still timely -- since little or nothing has appeared in the mainstream press or the entertainment press on the topic. Strange. Johnson notes:
There've been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don't remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense. You didn't see the National Rifle Association order a hit on Michael Moore over "Bowling for Columbine."
One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims. The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.
The conservative press has, of course, been all over this story.
Which is really strange if you stop and connect the dots between the issues raised in this murder. Tick them off again, with the Dallas Morning News editorial -- women's rights, artistic freedom, the right to offensive free speech. Sounds like a Frank Rich column to me.
Instead, it was the launching pad for a column in Human Events by that noted voice for human rights -- wait for it -- Pat Sajak. I have to hand it to him. In his "A Hush Over Hollywood" essay, Sajak has come up with a logical way to turn this story inside out and see it in a different light.
GetReligion readers on the left should take a deep breath and proceed. Is this fair, or what?
Somewhere in the world, a filmmaker creates a short documentary that chronicles what he perceives as the excesses of anti-abortion activists. An anti-abortion zealot reacts to the film by killing the filmmaker in broad daylight and stabbing anti-abortion tracts onto his body. How does the Hollywood community react to this atrocity? Would there be angry protests? Candlelight vigils? Outraged letters and columns and articles? Awards named in honor of their fallen comrade? Demands for justice? Calls for protection of artistic freedom? It's a pretty safe bet that there would be all of the above and much more. And all of the anger would be absolutely justified.
So here is my appeal to the academy: Can you spare an honorary Oscar statue for Ayaan Hirsi Ali?