As religious ministers and lay people across America protest President Obama’s abortion drugs mandate, on Friday the life-affirming movie “Doonby,” starring John Schneider, opens in Dallas, Texas, and Chattanooga, Tenn., with high praise from a Vatican official and other Christian leaders.

In its Feb. 12 edition, L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official newspaper of the Holy See that typically focuses on official church and papal affairs, included a most unusual feature: a glowing review of “Doonby.”

Father Gianfranco Grieco, O.F.M. Conv., office head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, declared that “Doonby” is a “moving and thought-provoking psychological thriller on many levels with a haunting finale that will linger in your mind and obsess your consciousness as you tackle a puzzle that will challenge each and every perception or conviction while you experience forlorn feelings of speechlessness and shock, but ultimately of liberation!”

Last summer, Peter Mackenzie, the Catholic writer and director of “Doonby,” screened his film for officials of the pontifical council.

Mackenzie told WND, “I am delighted to have such high praise from Father Grieco in L’Osservatore Romano. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d have such recognition and endorsement from the Vatican. It’s quite humbling.”

Recognition by someone from the Pontifical Council for the Family is especially fitting for Mackenzie since he made the film with his sons Mike, a producer, and Dan, a cameraman and editor.

Peter is an Irish citizen and his sons are British citizens who “love” America as the land of opportunity for independent filmmakers. Peter was influenced by John Steinbeck’s American settings and said, “That’s why ‘Doonby’ was set in small-town U.S.A., where relationships and conflicts are a microcosm of the attitudes and weaknesses of society as a whole.”

As WND reported, “Doonby” gained attention around the world last year when it was announced that the movie features a cameo appearance by Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade that decriminalized abortion nationwide.

And as Mike Mackenzie explained to WND, “By casting Norma in the film, we hope to highlight the ambivalence Americans have had towards the subject of abortion. Norma spent half her life being pro-choice, found Christ and became pro-life, and now she’s a fervent activist.”

Likewise, the Dallas opening is especially fitting since it’s the former hometown of McCorvey and the place Roe v. Wade case was first filed. Furthermore, “Doonby” takes place in the real-life town of Smithville, Texas, where McCorvey lived as Mackenzie sought to cast her in the movie and where he shot the film as well.

The latest “Doonby” trailer features endorsements by Christian leaders for its gripping plot that sheds light on the effects each human person has on other lives. And while one trailer shows a female character taunting Sam Doonby from bed, there are no sex scenes. In fact, the film is rated PG-13 and the Dove Foundation recommends it for young people 12-years-old and up.

The trailer:

Dick Rolfe, founder of the Dove Foundation, gave “Doonby” his highest four-star rating for family viewing and described it as “a compelling mystery with a surprise ending that will stun you!”

Bob Higley, vice president of TBN, said, “‘Doonby’ is this generation’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Everyone should see this thought-provoking film.”

Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention agrees with Fr. Grieco, Rolfe and Higley.

“‘Doonby’ is engrossing and a really good film,” said Land. “Anybody who’s looking to be entertained will come away thinking they got their money’s worth. You will leave the theater and think about it numerous times after you’ve seen it.”

British Lord David Alton, host of “The Suffering Church” on EWTN, adds to the international acclaim. He said, “‘Doonby’ is a thought-provoking and clever film which raises profoundly important questions. It takes its audience by surprise, challenges them and leaves them thinking. Brilliant cinema.”

One of the most provocative “Doonby” reviews comes directly from actress Erin Way, who plays young Sam Doonby’s mother, Lucy Mae and shared a WND interview with John Schneider. She hopes “Doonby” will speak to her generation of 20-somethings and generations to come.

“I hope that people really identify through the main character’s journey,” said Way. “He’s a drifter, but a really wise, powerful man without any ego. His intentions are really pure and you rarely see that portrayed in a heroic way. So I hope people will see the power of kindness and how powerful caring for our fellow human beings can be.”

“There is the whole abortion issue that is brought up,” she said. “My hope is that what is created is a very healthy dialogue about the various different sides.

“I’m interested in making films that make people think. Maybe ‘Doonby’ will haunt people for awhile and make them wonder, ‘What was that really about?’ And that excites me as an artist.”

“Doonby” costars Jenn Gotzon, Joe Estevez, Jennifer O’Neill, Will Wallace and Robert Davi., who also spoke to WND.

Peter Mackenzie told WND he and his fellow producers chose indie distribution to safeguard the artistic integrity of the film. As a result, upcoming nationwide distribution depends on this weekend’s theater sales in the Dallas marketplace.

Theater locations for Dallas and Chattanooga are listed online.

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