ATCHISON, Kan. — On a Sunday evening last April, 250 Benedictine College students gathered in the school auditorium to watch a movie. The film featured no thrilling car chases, shoot-outs or bloody battles. Except for one aging star, its actors were complete unknowns. There wasn’t much of a plot and not a single special effect to wow the crowd.
Nevertheless, the audience was inspired.
“The film showed how exciting, and almost cool, it is to be pro-life,” said Gina Zeismer, president of Ravens Respect Life, the Benedictine College pro-life club. “The reaction of the viewers was definitely positive.”
It takes a special kind of film to fire up a group of college kids, and “Thine Eyes: A Witness to the March for Life” is just that.
“Thine Eyes” documents the participation of three groups — from St. Louis, Wichita, Kan., and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. — in the 2009 March for Life.
The film was produced to encourage young pro-life Americans, to support the efforts of those who work for an end to abortion. A campaign is currently under way to help the film reach as wide an audience as possible.
Executive producer Steve Sanborn originally intended only to stand on a rooftop and capture on film the numbers that the mainstream media routinely fail to report. But Sanborn shared his idea with his friend Jack Cashill, a documentary film producer, who expanded the scope of the film and brought in Mike Wunsch as director and pro-life actress Jennifer O’Neill as narrator.
The result is a moving narrative that reflects the marchers’ passion and purpose, diversity and determination.
But it is the youthfulness of the march participants that is likely to win over viewers: The majority of attendees are under 25. Theorizes one middle-aged marcher, “There is a survivor mentality that makes these kids come out in droves.” After all, he says, one-third of their generation has been lost to abortion, and they know that “it could have been them.”
There are other motives, too, which impel students to board buses in dreary January and travel for hours in order to spend a cold day on Washington’s windswept National Mall. For Phil Ervin, one of 180 Benedictine students who participated in the 2009 March for Life, it was the example of his parents.
“I was brought up in a great Catholic family, and my parents are very pro-life,” he said. “My dad used to shake me awake at 5:30 in the morning and take me to a local abortion clinic near our home to pray the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at first, but as I became more mature, I realized what a horror abortion really is.”
In the face of that horror, the marchers demonstrate a gentle restraint and prayerful optimism.
“We want to pray for our country and for our new president,” says a young husband holding a “Couples for Christ” banner. “It’s not about yelling at people.”
An ebullient young spokesman for Nebraskans for Life agrees. “We’re here to save the babies,” he affirms, “and we’re going to do it with prayer.”
Kelsey McCrum, a student at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., has attended the March for Life seven times since she was in sixth grade. She observed that “the authenticity of the movement shines through very brightly in the way people conduct themselves at the march.”
These youthful marchers are “happy people who are going to eventually win” the battle against the anti-life forces, Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, declares in the film. “We have the truth, and they don’t.”
The trick is to get the truth out there. In the wake of the 2009 March for Life, not one word about the march appeared in The New York Times. As the film points out, the lack of coverage “shocked even the cynical.”
What little coverage there was was either inaccurate or misleading; USA Today, for example, “reduced the number of marchers to mere thousands,” when in fact a record 300,000 people were present.
“‘Thine Eyes’ is an awareness piece,” said Sanborn. “The mainstream media ignores or lies about the March for Life. Because of this, average Americans either do not know about the March for Life or believe it is an ill-attended event made up of fringe types and so-called radicals. ‘Thine Eyes’ was created to spotlight the facts and make viewers aware of the event as well as the people who attend it.”
“‘Thine Eyes’ is a real fire-starter,” said Ervin. “When I watched just 10 minutes of it, it gave me chills. I was reminded of getting to the top of Capitol Hill and turning to look behind me. All I could see were people: The whole mall and blocks and blocks of our nation’s capital were just packed with people. I look back at that moment as one of the defining points in my will to see abortion abolished in our country because I realized I was far from alone in that desire.”
Zeismer’s “defining moment” happened after she stopped to help a friend who was dehydrated.
“As we struggled to rejoin our group, we were really able to see all the different people that were at the march, showing their support for life. Every race, every religion, every age and background was represented. It was very powerful.”
Celeste Behe writes from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
INFORMATION “Thine Eyes” will be aired on EWTN Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 10pm Eastern. Copies of the documentary are available at ThineEyes.org for a donation of $20. Showings of the film may also be scheduled as fund-raisers for pro-life groups; see the website for details.