Right-wing groups say the movie "Poison" is pornographic and should not have been made with taxpayer funds. But an aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it is simply boring.
"I almost fell asleep twice," said Paul Smith, Hatch's press secretary. He was among a couple of dozen aides to conservative senators who were shown the movie last week by the National Endowment for the Arts - which gave the film's makers a $25,000 grant for film editing."It's a B movie with a capital B for boring," Smith said. "The only way it would make money is for the Rev. Donald Wildmon to say it is pornographic, which of course he did."
Wildmon, a longtime critic of the NEA for giving government grants for arts projects he feels are pornographic, recently wrote the Senate complaining that the movie explicitly showed a homosexual rape scene within a prison. The movie, however, did win the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
Smith said the movie is not really explicit. "Well, you knew what they were doing. But it was not that explicit. You can rent all sorts of things at Erol's (a typical video store) that are more explicit."
He added, "What really grossed me out was the spitting. It had a spitting contest where they spit into a man's open mouth. That's what the Rev. Wildmon should have protested. That was sickening, just sickening."
Smith said the consensus among aides he talked to was that the movie was not that explicit, it shouldn't cause too much trouble for the NEA among senators and would not have made any money if the Rev. Wildmon had ignored it.
"It's tough for the NEA. These proposals come in and make their projects sound like the greatest thing since popcorn. The NEA can't always know they will turn out with scenes of homosexual rape - or be boring," Smith said.
Smith also saw the movie somewhat because of a fluke. Another Hatch aide, Laurie Chivers, was assigned to see the movie.
"But she was grossed out at just the thought of seeing a gross movie. So she asked if anyone would like to come along. I was the only one," Smith said. "It was a terrible, terrible film."
Hatch has been one of the NEA's strongest supporters in the Senate, and is the ranking Republican on the committee that oversees its operations.
Because of that support, the Rev. Wildmon - who heads the American Family Association - also attacked Hatch last year in letters to Utah voters saying he supported un-Christian art. Still, Hatch pushed legislation that would force NEA grantees to refund money for project found to be obscene, but still gave NEA wide-artistic ranging freedom.