We bought and finally got around to watching a movie last night that we have more than simply an entertainment interest in. The movie is Alleged and is a look at what is known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. This is the trial, back in 1925, in Tennessee that focused on the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools. As Alleged shows, there is a lot more to the story than that! There are worldviews and motivations underlying this event that are rarely addressed, or at least addressed honestly and in a balanced way. Even the trial itself, famously portrayed in the movie Inherit The Wind, went quite differently in real life.
Alleged was co-written and produced by Fred Foote, a man I have met on several occasions and the brother of a great brother in Christ and friend of our family. As we watched last night it was fun to see a few people we know as extras throughout the film.
Unlike a lot of privately produced films in the family friendly genre, Alleged has some heavy hitters in the cast. Most notable on this list are Fred Thompson, Colm Meaney (who has been in quite a few films but is best known to me as Chief O’Brien from Star Trek:TNG and Deep Space Nine!) and Brian Dennehy, all major film stars and solid actors. Because of this, the acting and production quality of this film is substantially higher than other films like Facing the Giants that target the same audience. The film is also less overtly religious although clearly the film is not only very family friendly, it is also sympathetic to people of faith. As part of the special features, the DVD includes a series of discussion questions making this a great film to watch and discuss with a church gathering, especially in a small group study or a youth setting since they are often on the front lines of the debate over evolution and creation.
What was most interesting about this movie is that it looked at a crucial moment in American culture in a way that pushes through the cultural nostalgia of a principled defender of education and knowledge pitted against the hordes of uneducated religious fundamentalists. The reality is far more complex. For example, William Jennings Bryant was hardly a fire breathing fundamentalist, he didn’t even hold to a six 24 hour day creationism. The newspaper reporters of the day were not nearly as noble as made out to be. Most importantly, the driving forces behind this event on the “evolution side” held to some terribly abhorrent views of human beings, views that are repugnant but also a natural result of an evolutionary worldview.
Certainly Alleged is approaching this highly charged topic and event from a particular worldview but I didn’t find that it beat you over the head with it. This wasn’t a feature length film clamoring about six day creationism. What it seems to be setting out to do, and I think it accomplished, was to look more at the worldview of those on the defense team, defending Mr. Scopes from charges that may not have even been true, and doing so more to push a point rather than out of a sense of justice and fairness. Regardless this event from nearly 100 years ago is still a hot issue today in our culture, educational systems and the church. Alleged is a great way to look at a crucial topic while also being an entertaining film to watch with the entire family.
You can purchase Alleged at Amazon or any other major online retailer. You can also get the film right from the film webpage.