Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Arts Council, mayor resolve controversy


When the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa revoked its decision to cancel the film “Turn Me On, Dammit!,” a part of the Bama Art House film series, last Friday, the heat finally turned down on what had become a hot-button local issue involving the mayor, church pastors and vocal members of the Arts Council.

The film, which won best screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival, drew complaints centered around its theme of the film, which its website describes as the comedic coming-of-age of a 15-year-old girl in Norway discovering her own sexuality.

Controversy began when the movie was pulled after a local pastor, John Kearns of Christ Harbor Methodist Church in Northport, expressed his displeasure with the film.

Initially, his complaints were outweighed by support for the screening. Kearns and his followers then joined forces with the pastor of New Beginnings Church, Randy Fuller, and the group expressed their displeasure again to Mayor Maddox and the City Council, urging them to take action.

The Arts Council sent out a press release last Wednesday announcing its decision to cancel the showing of the film. According to the release, the decision was made “due to the misunderstanding surrounding the theme and content of the film.”

The release also said, “The film was not chosen to appear in the series to offend, shock or demoralize any member, group or entity within our community. It was chosen for its candor, humor and its attempt to portray our flaws and struggles as human beings.”

The outcry that followed decision, though, was even more passionate and widespread than the original opposition to the film’s screening.

“I think it’s ludicrous and inappropriate for anyone to unilaterally decide what is and isn’t fit for the diverse community of Tuscaloosa and then to impose that opinion on all of us,” Gordon Maples, UA graduate and former president of Alabama Atheist and Agnostics, said. “Protesting and boycotting the movie are perfectly acceptable, as the Westborough Baptist Church did on multiple occasions during director Kevin Smith’s touring of the controversial film ‘Red State.’ However, pushing to prevent a film from being screened at all for purely personal reasons that do not represent the entire community is unacceptable.”

Erin “Soapy” Jones, owner of The Left Hand Soap Company was also unhappy with the Arts Council’s decision.

She offered to sponsor a screening of the movie and said the community should feel free to use their voices in civil discourse.

“We have all been in talks for the last few days, sorting out the logistics of this particular movie’s screening,” Jones said. “I think we already have channels in place for preventing censorship.”

As voices in favor of the screening spread on social media outlets and through the community, the Arts Council decided to overturn its decision on Friday. According to a press release sent on that afternoon, the decision came after the Arts Council consulted with the leadership of Tuscaloosa.

The release said officials emphasized that future funding for the organization is not linked with programming decisions and public funds will not be directed toward the screening of the film. Instead, The Left Hand Soap Company and additional support from will completely fund the screening of the film.

Robert Dalton, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, is one of the students excited about the decision to screen the film.

“I am so happy that it is overturned,” Dalton said. “This shows that free speech is still valued by people today.”

Dalton said he thinks students played a part in reversing the decision, with the help of social media like Facebook and Twitter.

“Without students posting, I and many others wouldn’t have even known that the film was cancelled. Thanks to student efforts, this became too big for the pastors to control.”

The film will be screen on its original date and time, on Tuesday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. The marquee will remove the expletive from its display of the title and the theater will treat it as an “R” rated film.

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