- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2024

A pro-adoption movie starring Kirk Cameron has become a surprise international hit on Netflix, but it’s not available on the streaming platform in the U.S., a split that may have its roots in the fraught abortion debate.

The 2022 film “Lifemark,” the story of an adopted teen who meets his birth mother, cracked the Netflix Global Top 10 for the week of April 22-28, shortly after it began streaming in Central America, South America, and Mexico.

Not only was “Lifemark” ranked eighth globally, but it was the number-one streaming film in a number of countries, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Uruguay, and number three in Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Chile.

“We’re excited about the response from Central and South America, and the top ten ranking on Netflix that the movie has had recently,” Alex Kendrick of Kendrick Brothers Productions, the film’s executive producer, told The Washington Times.

The industry publication Screen Rant took notice, running an April 30 article headlined: “Under-The-Radar 2022 Movie With 97% RT [Rotten Tomatoes] Audience Score Becomes Global Netflix Hit.”

Despite positive critical reviews and enthusiastic audience ratings, “Lifemark” barely registered with the moviegoing public when it was first released. To find out why, you have to go back to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The movie was shot in 2021 in Columbus, Georgia, but its release was delayed by the pandemic theater closures until shortly after the high court’s ruling in 2022, when the uproar over abortion access was at its peak.

Mr. Cameron, who co-produced the faith-based film, said “Lifemark” was rejected by major Hollywood distributors. The movie was released by Fathom Events for a one-week U.S. theater run in September 2022, ultimately grossing $5.6 million worldwide.

“We went to several large film production studios, and they turned it down,” Mr. Cameron told The Washington Times. “They didn’t want to partner with us, and they told us why. It was because of the content. They felt that a movie about valuing a child in the womb and the true story of adoption was a quote, hot topic, and they feared that because they work in Hollywood, there would be blowback.”

The “hot topic” would be the pro-life angle: The movie includes a flashback about how the pregnant 18-year-old birth mother first goes to an abortion facility, but changes her mind and opts to put her newborn up for adoption.

“She and her boyfriend go to the abortion clinic, she’s just feeling uneasy, she has a change of heart, and she decides instead to place her child up for adoption,” said Mr. Cameron, who plays the adoptive father. “And he goes back to thank her as an adult for her brave choice. It’s a beautiful story about a young man’s life.”

Great American Pure Flix, a pro-family streaming service with more than 1 million subscribers, picked up the movie after it left theaters, but Netflix declined it.

“Pure Flix has the streaming rights, and they have since the beginning, but they offered it to Netflix, and Netflix turned it down in the United States,” said Mr. Cameron. “Then Netflix’s foreign acquisition team picked it up. So they distributed it in South America, and sure enough, it’s a huge hit.”

He said he wasn’t surprised that Netflix took a pass with U.S. audiences, chalking it up to the “potential blowback,” but says the movie’s international success shows that there’s a market for the compelling adoption story.

The movie is based on the life of David Scotton, whose account of meeting his birth parents was featured in the 2018 short documentary “I Lived on Parker Avenue,” produced by Benjamin Clapper, Louisiana Right to Life, and Joie De Vivre Media.

Mr. Scotton, an adoption advocate who makes a cameo appearance in “Lifemark,” cheered the film’s recent success.

“Lifemark hit Netflix’s Global Top 10, with 3.5 MILLION views in ONE WEEK,” said Mr. Scotton last week on Instagram. “I’m just thankful to have life and for my friend @kirkcameronofficial who watched our documentary @ilivedonparkerave and took the story to the next level!”

Mr. Cameron said he hopes Netflix gives “Lifemark” a chance with U.S. viewers. The Washington Times has reached out to Netflix for comment.

“We would love to see more people in the United States and around the world benefiting from this movie,” Mr. Cameron said. “And we’re hoping Netflix will have a change of heart and open the doors to people in the United States.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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