UPDATE, JAN. 29, 12:48 P.M.: The executive producer and writer-producer of The Principle, which is rolling for at least a couple more weeks at the AMC Orange 30, issued statements today blasting media outlets that focused their coverage of the documentary less on the subject of questioning the validity of the Copernican Principle than on accusations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism directed at the EP, Robert Sungenis.
Here is the statement from Sungenis:
My career is that of a theologian. For over 20 years I have examined, questioned and critiqued every religion including Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, and even my own religion, Catholicism. But that makes me no more anti-Semitic than it makes me anti-Catholic. Unfortunately, some of my past comments have been taken out of their political or religious context and have been mistakenly or maliciously applied as some personal animus toward the Jewish people at large. Let me state this clearly, and, I hope, for the last time: I am not now, nor ever have been, nor ever could have been, anti-Semitic. I do not, nor have ever, denied the tragic and unforgettable occurrence of the Holocaust or its impact on the Jewish people.
The Principle deserves to be judged on its own technical and artistic merits and not be prejudiced by appeals to racial divides. To attempt to tarnish this beautiful film, which involved the efforts of many, many creative and gifted people, via character assassination is shameful journalism and unfair to those involved.
And now the world turns to writer-producer Rick DeLano:
It seems as though there has been a willful intent to change the focus of the conversation about The Principle off of the film itself and instead to indulge in character assassination of Robert Sungenis by members of the media.
If Robert Sungenis were anti-Semitic, or a Holocaust denier, I would never have become his friend, much less his business partner. The mother of my sons is Jewish, and thus I would not have become associated with Robert for a minute, let alone the last eight years, if I had sensed from him even a hint of animus toward the Jewish people.
It saddens me that our film isn't getting an honest review, or an honest take in the broader media due to a misconception that has been dredged up again and again, yet has no substance. It saddens me that my friend can't seem to escape a label intended to discredit his decades of impressive scholarly work. Robert is not a Holocaust denier. Robert is not an anti-Semite. Now that we have stated our side of the story, I truly hope this is something that can now be laid to rest.
Now my two cents.
Another person associated with the film told me he wished I had spent more of my original post (on the next page) actually reviewing the film rather than focusing mostly on the controversy surrounding the filmmakers.
There is one paragraph in the original post where I do explain my take on what I saw. What I didn't mention there was that while I found some of The Principle interesting, much of the second half went way over my head (literally, come to think of it). There just was not enough “there there” to warrant a review, so my intent was not to write about the film at all.
But then I caught some of that coverage the filmmakers refer to in their statements today. As I explained in the original post, I found that much more interesting than the film itself, so I reconsidered and wrote what I wrote. I truly do wish the filmmakers well moving forward.
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 28, 6:02 A.M.: Debate is in quotes because none of the featured scientists, creationists and geocentrists actually engage with one another, being shown instead as individual talking heads supporting/questioning/denying the long-accepted theories of Galileo and Copernicus.
The result is … interesting, in a way a History Channel show you would otherwise have no interest in viewing is compelling if the only channel you can get with your clicker is the History Channel. The graphics are not nearly as impressive as those in Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos, but The Principle's still might keep stoners enthralled. Kate Mulgrew of Orange is the New Black and Star Trek: Voyager/ fame narrates. So there's that.
But an even more interesting documentary would be on the defense and making of The Principle. Ask Mr. Google or read some of my emails and you'll see the victim card played by the filmmakers/distributors, who cast mainstream theaters and the media as bullies who won't show/review the film (which was just reviewed by Variety and the Los Angeles Times and, as mentioned at the top, is playing at an AMC theater).
Also playing the victim card is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who appears onscreen in The Principle. Lawrence M. Krauss, foundation professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State, recently tweeted, “For all who asked: Some clips of me apparently were mined for movie on geocentricism. So stupid does disservice to word nonsense. Ignore it.”
Mulgrew issued a statement saying she was essentially a narrator for hire who was misled by the filmmakers, is not a geocentrist and is certainly not a Holocaust denier, a label that has been applied to The Principle's executive producer Robert Sungenis, who is among the talking heads trashing Galileo, Copernicus, NASA and modern science. See the twinkle in Sungenis' eye as he seems to support Galileo's harsh punishment during the Inquisition.
The Principle's producers have called bullshit. They say Krauss knew what he was being asked about, signed a release form and cashed a check. Mulgrew knew what she was reading into a microphone, they add, although writer-producer Rick Delano cut her some slack, telling Raw Story the veteran actress was “scared” and dealing with negative publicity.
Negative publicity has helped keep a documentary that likely would have faded by now up on a screen in Orange for at least another couple weeks. Well, that and the $8,000 per screen it is said to have hauled in last weekend, a per-screen average topped only by American Sniper and Still Alice.
The coverage has given Delano the opportunity to deny his film is geocentrist or that it advocates the Earth being fixed as the sun moves around it. The point, he claims, is merely to do what mainstream science has never done: question the Copernican Principle.
Being controversial has been the coin of Sungenis for some time. Here's what Salon just wrote about him and The Principle:
The film was funded by the ultra-conservative, ultra-Roman Catholic Robert Sungenis, who also appears in the film. Sungenis is also known for denying the Holocaust, and for his anti-Semitic articles, which his bishop demanded he stop writing.
Fun fact: Among those who have praised Sungenis on his website is Michael Piper, the Holocaust “revisionist” who Steven Frogue, then the president of the South Orange County Community College District board, invited to a planned (and later cancelled) JFK assassination symposium at Saddleback College in 1997.
Piper's book Final Judgment suggests Israel's spy agency, the Mossad, played a role with the CIA and the Meyer Lansky crime syndicate in the murder of President Kennedy. Sungenis once wrote that Israel orchestrated the JFK assassination in retaliation for the president's opposition to Israeli nuclear weapons. The pair of writers can also bond over their shared skepticism that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust–and shared notoriety from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Speaking of which, if the point of The Principle was merely to question Copernicus, someone should have told that to Sungenis, who has a website called galileowaswrong.com and says this in the press release for the film:
Briefly, The Principle is unlike any movie you have ever seen or may ever see. It is the first of its kind, mainly because the information it presents has only been available within the last two decades, and very few people know about it. What is it? Brace yourself!! Indisputable scientific findings show the Earth, among all other celestial bodies, occupies the most privileged and unique place in the universe, the very center!
Indisputable. Scientific. Findings. As another actor who appears in Star Trek vehicles is wont to say, “Oh my …”
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.