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MONTREAL — A day after Mitt Romney said he had no plans to watch the historical drama “September Dawn,” the film’s director told reporters here that the film actually could help the presidential candidate overcome voter opposition to his Mormon faith.
“What effect (‘Dawn’) will have on his candidacy is totally up to Mitt Romney,” Christopher Cain said at a news conference at the Montreal World Film Festival, where his film had its world premiere Friday. “He has somewhere in the area of 30% of the American public who say they won’t vote for a Mormon. And perhaps this is an opportunity for him to deal with (that) 30% of the American public.”
The U.S. director said that “Dawn,” which tells the story of the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857 — in which a large group of emigrants from Arkansas were attacked and killed by Mormon militiamen and Paiute Indians — is not meant as an indictment of Mormons but rather as a commentary on the way religious fanaticism can feed acts of violence against innocent people.
Romney told reporters Thursday that he didn’t plan to see “Dawn,” which opened Friday on 857 screens.
The presidential candidate described in an interview the 1857 massacre by Mormon settlers in Utah as “a terrible, awful act carried out by members of my faith.” But Romney said the Mormon faith has evolved since 1857.
“I hope on average we’re better than we would have been as a faith group by virtue of our religious teachings,” he said. “But there certainly can be some extremes, some very bad people.”
Jon Voight, who co-stars in “Dawn” with Terence Stamp and Lolita Davidovich, told the Montreal press that the movie examines religious fanaticism behind acts of terror worldwide today.
“This film gives us a way to have an insight into the kinds of acts that we’re seeing across the globe, which are so unthinkable to civilized people,” he said. “This gives us a way to see how programming within a religion can use the religion as a rationale for the murder of innocent people.”
Montreal is unspooling a host of other politically driven films dealing with issues of war and strife.
This includes the world premiere of Canadian director David Paperny’s “Confessions of an Innocent Man,” a documentary about Canadian businessman William Sampson, who was arrested and tortured in Saudi Arabia for a crime he didn’t commit.
The National Film Board of Canada docu, narrated by Martin Sheen, is filled with dramatic recreations of Sampson undergoing beatings, sleep deprivation and even rape at the hands of his Saudi jailers.
Paperny said that the film is purposefully provocative in indicting the Canadian and British governments for not securing Sampson’s release from his 31-month ordeal, which included a forced confession and death sentence.
“We’re trying to make a statement through Bill’s story of the role Ottawa and Whitehall played in using him as a pawn, and making Bill and human rights of secondary importance to business as usual, to oil and, in the case of Britain, to billions of dollars in business for British Aerospace,” Paperny said.
Paperny said that his and other politically driven films are using history and contemporary events as a springboard to a public debate about wider political issues.
“As in most of my films, we’re trying to engage people through an intimate and personal story,” the Canadian director said.
The Montreal World Film Festival runs through Sept. 3.
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