Divided Hearts of America Takes a Fair Look at the Abortion & Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice Debate [Interview]
Divided Hearts of America is a new documentary film that tackles the real and raw truth about abortion in America. Filmmaker Chad Bonham along with retired NFL star Benjamin Watson walks the viewer on a journey of 30 interviews to paint this picture.
Watson interviews senators, doctors, scientists, survivors of abortions, people who had them, doctors who performed them, lawmakers, Christians, atheists, and others to understand both sides of this hot button issue.
Ultimately, the film keeps its Pro-Life stance evident but in a way that gives an opportunity for growth without condemnation which makes it accessible to a wider audience.
We had the chance to ask director Chad Bonham some questions via email. We also spoke to Benjamin Watson on the phone (article coming next week).
How did you link up with Benjamin Watson to create this film and why go with an athlete to tell the story instead of a journalist?
I’ve known Benjamin for several years. We met while I was working on some Fellowship of Christian Athletes projects and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. The person who initially came up with the idea to do an abortion documentary at this particular time in our history was my producing partner Betsy Kennedy-Ryzewicz.
She wasn’t particularly engaged with the issue but became very upset after New York passed the Reproductive Health Act in January of 2019. She wasn’t aware of how extreme abortion laws had become in some states and called me almost immediately after that law was passed with the idea of making a film that would expose what was happening.
One of the first things she said was, “We’ve got to get Benjamin involved.” I had introduced Betsy and Benjamin a couple of years earlier while we were putting together a sports-themed program, so she knew a lot about his past activism on the abortion issue. He’s spoken at March For Life and his wife Kirsten has been featured in videos for pro-life groups like Live Action. It made perfect sense to have him front the project.
Benjamin is well respected on both sides of the political and ideological aisle and has a unique platform as a 16-year NFL veteran. Plus he’s great on camera and has a lot of experience with the national media.
Why was Divided Hearts of America your first directed film and what was the passion of telling that story that led you to do it?
I’ve actually produced six documentaries now and directed and written three of those films. In fact, the first film I produced was also an abortion documentary that was released in 2010 with the American Center For Law and Justice (ACLJ). Two other films I’ve directed, written, and produced have yet to be released and both are being developed into screenplays (both of which I also wrote). This just happens to be the first film I’ve done that’s gotten a ton of national attention.
I’ve been studying the abortion issue since I was in college. I was inspired to take a more public pro-life stance after reading Randy Alcorn’s book “Pro-Life Answers To Pro-Choice Arguments.” I even wrote an editorial for my college newspaper at The University of Tulsa. So again, I’ve been passionate about protecting the unborn for more than 30 years.
While I believe laws are an important part of the equation to fighting for life, I also know that you have to win over the hearts and minds of people who may not fully understand what’s at stake. People don’t generally like to talk about abortion and many just avoid the topic altogether. So one of the goals for this film was to break things down on multiple levels.
We wanted people to understand the history of abortion…to see the hidden agendas behind the pro-choice movement. We wanted people to get a sense of how it became a political issue, and to address the complex moral questions surrounding abortion. Also, we wanted to show people the science behind reproductive health. We also needed to reveal some of the ugly truths behind what happens during various abortion methods. Perhaps most importantly, we wanted to show the real impact of abortion on people and give some solutions to how we can do a better job making our communities welcoming to all unborn children whether they are planned, unplanned, wanted, or unwanted.
Is it difficult to tell conservative or religious stories in a mostly liberal industry and what are some of the challenges of doing so?
It’s always been difficult to tell conservative and religious stories in a Hollywood-driven world. There have been moments in time when certain stories have broken through like The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt, The Passion of The Christ, God’s Not Dead, I Can Only Imagine, Unplanned, etc., and made a national splash in spite of Hollywood’s resistance. For me, I just think that great stories with the proper resources will always have a fighting chance. People want to hear inspirational, redemptive stories. I also think people ultimately want to hear the truth.
Right now is a very interesting time with cancel culture and de-platforming. But that is going to backfire and you’re going to see people fight back and cry out for something different. Some of the projects I’m working on now are poised to take advantage of that blowback against traditional Hollywood models of film financing, distribution, and marketing. I think we’re about to enter a renaissance for Christian filmmakers and media content creators.
What were some of the challenges in filming this and putting it out during covid?
We didn’t do any primary filming during the Covid-19 outbreak. We filmed in June 2019, July 2019, and September 2019. Also, we grabbed a few extra pieces of material in January 2020 and got some footage in March 2020, right before the lockdowns. We did most of the post-production during lockdowns and severe restrictions. Thankfully, our editors were able to work remotely and I was able to oversee the editing process via Zoom and other means of communication. Once we opened up here in Oklahoma (where all the post-production was done), I was able to meet with the editors on a regular basis. We were also able to bring Benjamin here for the narration recording in June 2020.
The biggest Covid-19 related challenges were with the release of the film. We initially wanted to do a theatrical release and had plans for a limited engagement in September along with some special screening events. All of that went out the window and we had to pivot to a pay-per-view strategy. It wasn’t easy but we were blessed to get the film out before the election in the hopes that people might be armed with knowledge as they decided how to choose their leadership at the local, state, and national levels.
We are now on all the major digital platforms for rental and purchase (i.e. iTunes, Amazon, Google, YouTube, etc.) and many popular cable and online rental platforms (i.e. DISH, DirecTV, Vudu, Roku, Sling, etc.).
Was there anything special off-camera that happened in these intense conversations?
We had a lot of cool things happen off-camera. Amazing side conversations. Times of prayer and reflection. Lots of shared respect and opportunity for camaraderie amongst the crew and our interview subjects. One of the neatest moments was when our producer Betsy Kennedy-Ryzewicz asked Alveda King (Martin Luther King’s niece) if she had a word for our film. She quoted Zechariah 4:6 and then said a very powerful prayer for us and for the film.
I’d interviewed Alveda for the abortion film from 2010 and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Having her support in this film meant a lot to all of us.
Is there a Christian hip-hop element to this film?
I’ve taken notice this past two or three years that several artists like Jackie Hill Perry, Propaganda, Sho Baraka, Tedashii, etc., have had a lot to say about abortion and specifically about its impact on the Black community. That’s why we were so excited to have Lecrae’s song “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” as our end credits song.
Although I’ve been fortunate to interview Lecrae in the past, it was Benjamin’s relationship with him that opened that door. I hope that his involvement in our film will expand our reach into a younger, more diverse demographic than what might be typically available for pro-life films like Divided Hearts of America.
Anything else to add?
With the change in direction on abortion that we’re now seeing from an executive level in the White House, our film is just as relevant as it was when we initially released it in September, six weeks prior to the election. Laws are important but what’s more important is that people understand this issue and how it is impacting our nation physically, emotionally, culturally, economically, and spiritually. Until abortion is unthinkable, films like Divided Hearts of America will be a necessary and vital part of the national conversation.
You can find out more about the film at www.dividedheartsofamericafilm.com