I’m happy to join in a bout of public lamentation over our national ignorance of—and hostility toward—science, but I’m extremely skeptical about this story, which seems to be getting a good deal of bloglove. The premise is that a critically-hailed biopic about Charles Darwin isn’t finding a U.S. distributor because it will be “hugely divisive” in a fundie-fillled country where polls show a majority don’t believe in evolution. The thing is, the evidence for this is actually pretty scant. The film’s producer suggests that this is why it hasn’t been picked up, and the article notes that the film has (unsurprisingly) been criticized on supposedly “influential” Christian movie-review sites, but on a moment’s reflection, the premise that any of this should be a barrier to the film’s getting picked up ought to seem pretty dubious. After all, lots and lots of films released every year are anathema to evangelicals and social conservatives. If that were enough to scupper a film, how did Religulous or Contact or Wilde—to say nothing of smaller niche market films like Jesus Camp—ever get picked up?
Now, what’s possible is that the film’s producers are only getting much smaller offers than they want to accept, because U.S. distributors see it as the kind of film that would do limited theatrical release in the slightly more offbeat theaters of metro areas—think In the Loop or The Hurt Locker. But I suspect that goes to the kind of films that do well in the U.S. market, not any particular theological controversy. If it were a biopic of (say) theist Immanuel Kant, it would still probably end up drawing the kind of educated audience that constitutes the audience for a Darwin flick. The thinly-supported claim that this is about our national ambivalence about evolution strikes me as an attempt to gin up enough publicity that some distributor will meet the producers’ asking price.