Unplanned

The film Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson, erstwhile director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, TX. It is based on her book of the same title. Ms. Johnson first joined Planned Parenthood as a volunteer when she was a student at Texas A&M in nearby College Station, TX. She eventually rose to become the director of the Bryan clinic. Her growing unease with Planned Parenthood’s policies and procedures culminates with her participation in an abortion with the aid of sonography. Visualization of the process finally pushes her over the edge and she quits, becoming an anti-abortion activist. She has previously told her story in speeches.

As expected this film as been controversial, leading Google to label the film as propaganda. The film is certainly polemical. Any film with a point of view could arguably be labeled as propaganda but that would mean almost everything coming out of Hollywood is propaganda. By applying the word this way it loses all meaning. Unplanned is reasonably balanced. People on both sides of the issue are generally portrayed as being well-intentioned rather than good or evil. The main exception is Ms. Johnson’s superior at Planned Parenthood, who is the film’s villain. Some of the anti-abortion activists are also depicted as being less than well-behaved.

I found the film both moving and disturbing. Though not especially squeamish, I had to look away on a couple of occasions. One cannot come away from viewing it without being affected. There have been complaints that the film is rated R but the rating is not unreasonable given the nature of the material. It would be inadvisable to take a child to see it. The film has a fair amount of reference to religious faith. From the point of view of a non-believer, this is not central to the film’s message; the film stands on its facts and arguments, along with some tugging at the heart-strings.

Highly recommended.

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This Week’s Book Review – Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Lady Death’ the story of a successful sniper

By MARK LARDAS

Feb 12, 2019

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Greenhill Books, 2018, 272 pages, $32.95

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.

In it she recounts her life, with a primary emphasis on her wartime experiences. She shows how she became an expert marksman before the war, joining shooting teams at work and in school, becoming fascinated with both the machinery of the rifle and the art of shooting.

She put those skills to good use when Russia was invaded. Enlisting as a private, she served as a sniper in the 25th Rifle Division. She recounts her experiences during the summer of 1941 through the spring of 1942. She fought at the sieges of Odessa and Sevastopol, was wounded several times, promoted to lieutenant (and command of a sniper platoon), married a husband and saw him die in combat. These experiences are described in the chapters covering her combat career.

Wounded near the end of the latter siege, she was evacuated before Sevastopol fell. She had become famous, the subject of several published Soviet “histories” she states invented exploits for dramatic purposes.

Against her objections (she had a husband to avenge) she was sent to the United States on Stalin’s orders as a Soviet student representative to an international youth conference. There she met and was befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt. This is as fascinating an account as her combat recollections. The United States, Canada, and Britain were environments to which she had never been exposed.

Pavlichenko was an unapologetic communist, who grew up a privileged member of the nomenclature, the Soviet elite. This colors her history of events. She mentions Hitler invading Poland, but fails to mention the Soviets aided Hitler.

Regardless, “Lady Death,” is fascinating, and Pavlichenko’s beliefs don’t change her real accomplishments. This is a book worth reading.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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