In today’s click-bait media culture, “The Armor of Light,” a new documentary, could be provocatively summarized like this: Disney takes on gun-loving evangelicals.
But “The Armor of Light” tries to avoid quick judgments. The Disney in this instance is not the entertainment conglomerate but Abigail Disney, an independent filmmaker who happens to be Walt Disney’s grandniece. And the liberal Ms. Disney, 55, is not exactly trying to spar with religious conservatives or the National Rifle Association. She is attempting to initiate change through a question:
“How is it possible,” she asks, “to be both pro-life and pro-gun?”
“The Armor of Light,” out on Friday, Oct. 30, follows the Rev. Rob Schenck, an anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right. As he begins to reconsider the gun culture through a moral lens, Mr. Schenck teams with Lucy McBath, a Christian woman and supporter of abortion rights whose 17-year-old son , Jordan Davis, was murdered in 2012.
“The Armor of Light” is Ms. Disney’s directorial debut; her producing credits include “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” about a coalition of Christian and Muslim women in Liberia. “On the topic of gun violence in America, I just couldn’t keep a stopper in the bottle any longer,” she said.
Last year, she generated headlines by writing on Facebook that her great-uncle was misogynistic and racist — assertions some Disney historians and family members dispute. From the sofa of a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel suite, a spirited Ms. Disney clarified her perspective. These are excerpts from the conversation.
Q. What compelled you to tackle gun control in your first film?
A. I wondered where the serious discourse was. The two sides just seem to talk at each other. Where was the rational discussion about how morals and values factor in?
Several evangelical ministers declined to work with you. Why?
Generally their reaction was: “I’ve never thought about this before, but you’re absolutely right. Being both pro-life and pro-gun is a conflict. But I will be destroyed if I say this publicly.”
What was different about Mr. Schenck?
He couldn’t have been more wonderful. He said: “I swear to you, I’m asking and praying and thinking and trying to find a way to not speak. But I can’t.”
You’ve shown the film at evangelical churches and Christian colleges. How did it go over?
One woman said her pastor pressured her learn how to shoot a gun but that she wasn’t comfortable with it. And that, after seeing the film, she realized that there wasn’t something wrong with her for feeling that way. One man objected to the film really strongly. I asked what his wife thought. At first she looked surprised that I cared. Then she looked me straight in the eye and started to sob. When she pulled herself together, she said, “This thing is out of control, and it has to stop.”
There are a lot of Mrs. Somebodys out there who aren’t happy about this but who don’t feel entitled to speak up. What I hope this film does is invite those women to speak.
You seem to like stirring things up. I’m thinking about your recent public comments about Walt Disney.
You know, I didn’t say anything publicly. It was on my private Facebook page. But I understand why that’s a bit of a dodge. I regret it. I got my family all angry at me.
I don’t know why he needs to be seen as a saint. It’s important that heroes have their feet of clay. That makes them human, and that’s where all the learning is.
The important thing is that we all look inside our own hearts today and ask, “Am I aiding and abetting a problem in our culture because it’s just too hard to stand up and say something?”
An article on Page 2 this weekend about Abigail Disney and her documentary on gun culture misstates the position on abortion held by Lucy McBath, whose son was shot to death in Florida in 2012. She supports abortion rights; she is not anti-abortion.