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Filmmakers behind an upcoming Christian-themed movie that recreates a portion of the Columbine High School shooting are going to war with YouTube, which for months took down the film’s trailer and suspended the entire channel for reasons the company has so far refused to disclose.
The movie, I’m Not Ashamed, is the true story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim killed by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris when they attacked their fellow students in Columbine, Colo. in 1999.
The filmmakers are accusing YouTube of anti-Christian bias and say that YouTube ignored not only their requests to reinstate their channel, but also their numerous requests to explain why their trailer was problematic.
Furthermore, the filmmakers say their channel was finally reinstated only after The Hollywood Reporter contacted YouTube this week.
Late Thursday, the Google-owned company issued the following statement: “With the massive volume of videos on our platform, sometimes we make the wrong call on content that is flagged by our community. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring videos or channels that were mistakenly removed.”
Not good enough, says Chuck Howard, the film’s producer who created a YouTube channel a year ago and populated it with a behind-the-scenes video and the official trailer.
Last October, though, Howard was notified that the trailer violated YouTube’s standards. Without further explanation, YouTube blocked the trailer and the channel, and Howard has been attempting to seek clarification ever since.
Pure Flix Entertainment, best known for distributing the two God’s Not Dead films, opens I’m Not Ashamed on Oct. 21.
The trailer contains an intense but very brief look at the killers making a video prior to their rampage and also a snippet of the shooting at the school, but it is mild by today’s standards when it comes to graphic content. See the trailer below.
After the filmmakers appealed the suspension of their channel, YouTube responded with: “We have decided to keep your account suspended based on our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service.”
Even after reinstatement, though, YouTube slapped the channel with a “temporary penalty” and warned that further videos that offend its standards “could prevent you from posting content to YouTube or even lead to your account being terminated.”
Since then, the filmmakers retained legal counsel to demand that YouTube explains why the trailer was deemed offensive in the first place, and lawyers from Massey, Stotser & Nichols in Alabama are also asking for YouTube to remove the penalty it put on the film’s channel.
“At the time the movie trailer for I’m Not Ashamed was removed from YouTube in October of last year, it had over 5 million views. Since its reinstatement, there are virtually no views,” says a letter to YouTube from attorney Garrick Stotser.
“My client was never provided with any clear explanation or substantiation of why the movie trailer was removed,” the letter states. “YouTube’s removal of the movie trailer has interfered with promotional activities of the film.”
The lawyer also asks for “compensation for 11 months of lost online marketing for the movie.”
The filmmakers speculate that YouTube may have been responding to a Change.org petition objecting to the trailer because it “evokes a sense of glorification and entertainment” toward the Columbine shooting. The petition, signed by 1,868 people, was delivered to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“We didn’t glamorize the killers. We basically portrayed everything the way it happened,” says Howard.
The trailer is also being slammed online by atheists who object to the portrayal of Scott as a Christian martyr, which they say is inaccurate. The film, though, is based in large part on her journal, which repeatedly references her desire to be open in her faith in God and Jesus, specifically at school.
Also, Scott might be the only classmate killed by Klebold and Harris that the two mention by name in their videos, where they refer to “Rachel” and another female student (though not one who they shot that day) as “Christian, Godly little whores.”
Howard says, though, that during the 11 months when his channel was blocked, detractors sometimes posted the same trailer but included negative, snarky commentary with the posts, and YouTube allowed those versions to stand.
“YouTube is an information monopoly that controls what people see. Google should be forced to sell it because they are skewing what people can see and do. This is ridiculous,” says Howard.
“If you look at all the objectionable videos on YouTube — beheadings, recruitment videos for ISIS — and they take ours down because it has the name ‘Jesus’ in it? It’s the only reason they’d take it down. Then, magically, it’s back up the moment the press calls them on it.”
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