Coming attractions with substance

Kathryn Lopez

7/21/2007 12:00:00 AM - Kathryn Lopez

For most of its history, Hollywood has been a liberal enterprise, with occasional exceptions like "The Passion of the Christ."

And it's also been too darn predictable. Hollywood needs to make more movies that don't use its typical formula. One outside-the-box example is the raunchy summer comedy "Knocked Up" - its adolescent humor is infused with a conservative message.

If I were issuing grants to filmmakers for non-formulaic productions, there would be two genres I'd look to fund. First, we could really use inspiring war stories -- taking place not just on the battlefield, but also on the airwaves or anywhere a major conflict impacts our way of life. There have been some attempts, which I applaud, but we need more. We're at war. Pop culture should reflect that.

Secondly, I'd support the "Feminism Does Not Speak for Me" project -- as feminism does not speak for me, and I'm not the only American woman who would say that.

For you major-motion-picture types, here are some ideas. Enjoy them. And have no worries, I won't ask for royalties.

INFIDEL. In November 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (great-grand nephew of painter Vincent) was found shot on an Amsterdam street. A note was left on his body for a Somali-born woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali, then a member of the Dutch parliament, had worked with van Gogh on a documentary ("Submission") criticizing the treatment of women in Islamic societies. The note threatened that Ali, a former Muslim, would be next. The life story of Ali, who ultimately fled the Netherlands (after fleeing forced marriage in Kenya) to the United States highlights the clash of civilizations at the root of the war on terror. Halle Berry should be cast as Ali.

SOLDIERS' ANGEL. With a son deployed in Iraq and a daughter who's helped the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, D.C. mom and Hill vet Barbara Ledeen spends her off hours talking to and advocating for young men, some of whom lost limbs to enemy IEDs. In a culture where sacrifice is slim and protest often casual (including the antiwar protests she encounters outside medical centers where our wounded are being cared for), Ledeen's encounters are heartbreaking, startling and inspiring.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE! I've stolen the title from radio-talk show host Laura Ingraham's upcoming book (Regnery), so she might want royalties. A group of media conservatives helps kill a bad bill against all odds. With the power of the White House pushing an amnesty-for-illegal-immigrants bill, a dramatic debate ensues, with name-calling, broken friendships and eventually some redemption. The White House loses big, but it's a victory for law-abiding Americans who let themselves be heard via phone and e-mail, against the backdrop of heart-wrenching stories and the need for law and order.

BEAUTIES AND THE DISHONORABLE BEAST.

A girl named Nazanin waits in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, sentenced to death in an Islamic court for the crime of self-defense. (She stabbed a man who was trying to rape her and her younger niece.) A Canadian model and aspiring pop singer, also named Nazanin, learns of the girl's outrageous case and lobbies human-rights groups to insist that her life be spared. After a long, hard battle, the Nazanins win. It's a wake-up call to Eastern and Western countries alike. Can these women prevail against centuries-old practices?

BLESSED ARE THE AIRWAVES.

The biggest feminist of them all turns out to be a Catholic nun. And, no, she's not fighting the patriarchy to become a priest. Born Rita Rizzo, Mother Angelica is a modern media success story. The founder of the Eternal World Television Network, she's a Poor Clare nun and media mogul (with worldwide TV, radio, and Internet outlets), who started her venture with nothing but a little money and a fervent prayer. Hers is a story of a broken home, a life of physical pain, heartache and against-the-odds victories.

CHENEY.

He was White House chief of staff. He was secretary of defense. They thought his career was over. And then he became one of the most hated and feared politicians in the land, one heartbeat away from the presidency. But that was only the beginning. After months of the politicos' eyeing the field, Dick Cheney surprised them all by storming in late in the race and taking the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

You get the idea. There are a lot of stories out there. No need for us to be seeing the same movie. Or worse than that: an Al Gore production.