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“South Dakota,” an abortion “dramumentary.”

“South Dakota,” an abortion “dramumentary.” (photo)

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The history of abortion on-screen is short and inglorious: for the most part, it doesn’t exist, rejected out-of-hand as a viable option, since its presence would automatically turn any film polemical.

But it’s not like there’s a shortage of information, impassioned views and propaganda on the subject widely available from both sides of the aisle. So why did almost 1,000 L.A.-area high school girls have to be bussed into Westwood one October morning to watch “South Dakota: A Woman’s Right To Choose”?

As the Los Angeles Times reports, administrators of four Catholic schools and 11 public ones signed off to have their charges watch a supposedly impartial documentary on the subject.

Of course, not explicitly stating “ABORTION = DEATH” doesn’t mean there’s not a viewpoint being promulgated. “South Dakota: A Woman’s Right To Choose” is an uneasy mix of documentary interview and (judging by the trailer anyway) bathetic narrative — “dramumentary,” per first-time director Bruce Isacson. And the film sort of outs itself in terms of where it stands with its chosen company. It’s being pushed by Motive Marketing, who’ve done grass-roots campaigns to rally evangelicals (quite successfully) to “The Passion of the Christ,” Ben Stein’s quietly profitable (and vile) anti-evolution screed “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” and others.

“South Dakota”‘s executive producer Howard Kazanjian is on the record as not caring about “making money”; Focus on the Family’s James Dobson has seen it, while screenings for the pro-choice camps remain tenuous. And the finale’s depiction of a girl fleeing an abortion clinic in terror because of the horrendous conditions and staff apparently outdoes “Juno” for sheer caricature.

Why have all these administrators essentially signed off to help jump-start a marketing campaign? In the video of the screening — the same one the Times is reporting on — you can quite clearly hear someone informing the teen girls that the film’s due for release next year, which simply isn’t true; as the article states, the film is looking for but well may not receive distribution outside of the church-group kind.

12072009_lakeoffire.jpgI don’t really care what the Catholic schools are doing, since it’s their money and judgment. But is the L.A. public school system’s sex ed system so benighted and underfunded that something/anything that can tackle an issue is to be embraced with open arms? I suppose classroom viewings of Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire” — a film that more than balances its copious footage of vitriolic, homicidal anti-abortion protesters with graphic aborted fetus footage– are out of the question. But still: it would appear that, in the name of “discussion,” a bunch of teenage girls were just shipped off by their schools to be raw grassroots marketing meat for an evangelical-targeted film.

So, indie documentarians, get to it. Do you have an opinion on something controversial, no matter how inane or ill-conceived? (Aside: Reenactments? This is how we tackle one of the nation’s most instantly divisive social/ethical/legal problems? With some Cranberries songs and a “Veronica Mars” cast member?) Film it, then head over to L.A., where apparently no one’s actually paying attention to what they’re signing off on. If only the makers of “Life Is Hot In Cracktown” had known this…

[Photo: “South Dakota: A Woman’s Right To Choose,” Lionheart Movies, 2009; “Lake of Fire,” THINKFilm, 2007]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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