The story of a donor-conceived woman. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The development of birth control. And a papal document that shocked the world. These themes come together in a new documentary, Sexual Revolution--50 Years Since Humanae Vitae.
The film’s director, Daniel diSilva, told CNA that the documentary focuses on three main messages: addressing the broken ideals of “free love” that were promised in the Sexual Revolution; examining the consequences of the “free love” movement in light of Humanae Vitae; and outlining the historical development of the birth control pill and Natural Family Planning.
Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI, affirms the Church’s teaching against contraception. It talks about the dignity of human life and sexuality, and outlines the use of Natural Family Planning as a morally valid method of planning and spacing children.
The Sexual Revolution, said diSilva, introduced a new concept of love “with no strings attached, no babies, no consequences.” But it “went off track…and it has broken every promise that it made to our culture.”
“We, as a culture, were lied to left and right, and we all went with it,” he said. “I think the sexual revolution was, in a certain sense, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Pope Paul VI, who will be canonized a saint this October, “was the antithesis, if you will, of the sexual revolution,” he continued. In Humanae Vitae, the pope warned society against the widespread use of artificial contraception, saying it would lead to an increase in marital infidelity and general decline of moral standards, the possibility of governments using coercive measures to force contraceptive use upon people, a loss of respect for women, and a general decrease in humility regarding humanity’s dominion over the human body.
“And he was ridiculed. He was laughed at,” said diSilva. “That document, to this day, is probably…one of the most hated papal documents...in history.”
But in the end, he continued, the pope’s warnings about the consequences of contraception for society would prove to be true.
The film also delves into the history of the pill in contrast with Natural Family Planning. For those who have not explored Natural Family Planning, diSilva said, its history is revealed in the film as a “beautiful and organic, super scientifically effective method,” especially in a time “when people are so focused on what’s organic and what’s natural.”
Tying these elements together is the story of the film’s narrator, Alana Newman, whose exploration of her life as a donor-conceived individual led to her conversion to the Catholic Church.
The inspiration for the film came during a conversation between diSilva and Newman’s husband, Richard, during the screening of diSilva’s previous work, The Original Image of Divine Mercy.
“I’ve been pitched a million ideas for films,” he said, but Newman’s idea stuck out to him.
The idea was even more special to diSilva because it began during the screening of a film based on God’s mercy.
“It’s highly significant because of what mercy means,” he said. “It’s an incredible link from Divine Mercy to this film.”
It also tips its hat to the pro-life movement. “It’s a work of art that is a culmination” of all pro-life efforts, he said.
The film features commentary from prominent Catholic leaders, including Professor Janet Smith of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Princeton law professor Robert George, Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, director of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project Brad Wilcox, George Mason law professor Helen Alvare, and author Mary Eberstadt.
But diSilva hopes its message will reach far beyond a Catholic audience.
Since its trailer was released on June 2, more than 1,000 screening requests have come from 47 different states, said diSilva. Further details are available at the film’s website.
Some early viewers have already reported deeply inspirational experiences, diSilva said. He mentioned one particular story in which a man who had been struggling with his sexuality announced his renewed commitment to chastity aloud to the crowd of film-goers after the movie had concluded.
The film will also be screened in Rome for a week in October, diSilva said, in honor of Pope Paul VI’s canonization on October 14.
The film, he said, is “an invitation to revisit Humanae Vitae now, 50 years later…Nobody can ridicule the pope for what he said in Humanae Vitae anymore - those days are over. Because everything he said came true. He was right about everything. He couldn’t have been more accurate in Humanae Vitae.”