Social progress is defined by wakeup moments, when a book or film draws such attention to a cause that it can no longer be crushed or ignored. Guess Who's Coming to Dinnerchanged the way people thought about interracial marriage. Brokeback Mountain woke a mainstream audience to the cruel consequences of homophobia. The Ledge, the first film to feature an openly atheist hero in a Hollywood production, hopes to achieve similar advances for atheists.
In communities across America where churches are socially and politically dominant, many atheists and agnostics stay in the closet to avoid hatred and isolation. Americans dislike atheists even more than gays and lesbians. According to a Gallup poll, 55% of Americans would vote for a President who was gay or lesbian, while only 45% would vote for an atheist. The Ledge, with A-list stars including Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe nominee), Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings), and Terrence Howard (Crash, Academy Award nominee), provides an antidote: an imperfect but heroic atheist who is not afraid to say what he believes - even if it leads to his death.
"As we learn more about the universe and ourselves, religion will inevitably give way to atheism," says Matthew Chapman, writer and director of The Ledge. Census figures back him up. Non-belief is the fastest growing "religion" in America. People - particularly the young - are embracing atheism in spite of the risk of being ostracized by religious families, friends, and neighbors. Best-selling books like "The God Delusion" and "God Is Not Great" show that public interest in atheism is high.
Chapman has a personal connection to the atheist cause. He is the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, who discovered evolution and set science on a collision course with religion in the most heated way since Galileo. "Like many people, I am fed up with fundamentalism attacking science, dominating politics, and persecuting gays. To believe in a God who tosses almost all his creations into a lake of fire for eternity is to approve of a kind of cruelty that is unimaginable to me. It's time to grow up, reject Bronze Age superstition, and replace it with simple compassion and reason."
Nominated for Best US Drama at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, The Ledge opens on the rooftop of a city skyscraper, as Detective Hollis (Terrance Howard) pleads with Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) not to jump. Hollis soons learns that Gavin's reasons for jumping involve Shana (Liv Tyler) and Joe (Patrick Wilson), her fundamentalist husband. These relationships are seen in flashbacks as Gavin explains his situation to Hollis. Tension escalates from verbal shots to a lethal game in a race against time that neither God nor the police can stop.
"I want Christians and other believers to watch The Ledge and see that atheists have a valid point of view," says Chapman. "There are a lot of us, we are thinking people, we care about many of the same issues as believers, and yet we are rarely heard and widely hated. I hope atheists who are still in the closet will take heart from the film and think, 'I am not alone.'"
You can now see The Ledge through video-on-demand, or in theatres July 8. To see the trailer, or win tickets to the premiere and meet the stars, see www.LedgeMovie.com orhttp://www.facebook.com/theledgemovie/.
About Matthew Chapman
Writer-Director Matthew Chapman is the critically acclaimed author of two non-fiction books, Trials of the Monkey - An Accidental Memoir and 40 Days and 40 Nights. Critics and newspapers from Christopher Hitchens to The Wall Street Journal have praised his books as brilliant, highly personal accounts of the battle between faith and reason. His screenplay credits include Consenting Adults, directed by Alan J. Pakula, Color of Night, directed by Richard Rush, and Runaway Jury, directed by Gary Fleder. He is grateful to have been given the opportunity with The Ledge to marry his love of the thriller to his fascination with religious extremism.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Matthew Chapman, contact Lauren Schwartz email@example.com or 646-384-4694.
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