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He defined the slacker movie with Clerks and hit indie gold with Chasing Amy. But when KEVIN SMITH cast Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as fallen angels in Dogma, America's Catholic League refused to turn the other cheek. ‘.‘.’0'cs: Nigel Floyd

WHEN CLERKS DIRECTOR KEVIN SMITH set out to make Dogma. a scurrilous examination of the conflict between personal faith and institutionalised religion. he knew what to expect. 'The moment you start talking about religion. you piss somebody off.‘ he says.

'There are moments in this film where people talk about spirituality. religion and faith in a serious manner. and then all of a sudden this rubber

Disney. through its subsidiary film company Miramax. as a way of maximising its own media profile. They did the same in IOU-l with Antonia Bird‘s film Priest.

"They go after Disney every chance they get. because they know that when you attack Michael Eisner. the head of the biggest family entertainment group on the planet. you get a whole bunch of press.‘ adds

‘L'nlike those people. or the Monty Python troupe. whose 1.1/2, ()f'lfrian is a brilliant. outrageous satire on organised religion. I was constantly held back by my reverence for the subject matter.‘ argues Smith. ‘And I think that shows through. Beneath its veneer of dick and fuck jokes. Dogma is a very conservative film. Behind that. I think you see someone who wants the church to be everything it can be. [Is founder.

am ‘Beneath its veneer of click and fuck jokes, Dogma is a very

into the picture. Dr

Jay [the misanthropic slacker character familiar from Clerks. .l/Iall Rats and Chasing Amy] says something that‘s completely uproarious or borderline incendiary. So it‘s kind of a weird mixture of the somewhat profound and the very profane. It's either a very dumb movie with a lot on its mind. or it's a very smart movie with a lot of dumb. juvenile jokes. The truth is probably both. neither or somewhere in between.‘

As a practising Catholic and regular church-goer. Smith hadn't anticipated the virulence of the attacks by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Without having seen the movie. this group of self- righteous. self-appointed media watch dogs condemned it as heretical. anti- Catholic and obscene. Leaving aside a nasty taint of anti-Semitism. the Catholic League sees attacking

Smith. As a result of this pressure. Miramax were forced to hive off Dogma to small indie distributor Lion’s Gate Films.

Smith was shocked by the Catholic League‘s cynical expediency and humourless piety. which caused him to reflect upon the words of a popular American bumper sticker: ‘Lord. save me from your followers'. Not least because. as he points out. two other Hollywood movies recently released in the States explicitly attacked the Catholic church. The End Of Day's. starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. has ‘terminator’ priests employed by the Vatican to murder an innocent young woman. Stigmata. starring Patricia Arquette. portrays the Vatican as a paranoid. self-serving institution determined to preserve its power and influence. if necessary at the cost of revealing the truth of Christ‘s own recorded words.

Christ. came along with a very simple. tolerant philosophy and then other people came along and built a church based on that philosophy. But it sometimes seems as if they‘ve forgotten the tolerance that its progenitor preached.’

If the Catholic League were pissed off by the idea of a film in which two ‘fallen angels‘ (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) try to re-enter Heaven via a metaphysical loophole that proves God‘s fallibility. how much more pissed off were they that the saviour of mankind was Bethany (Linda Fiorentino). a disillusioned Catholic now working as an abortion clinic clerk. Or that Dagma's serious religious discussions are juxtaposed with the crude sexual obsessions of Jay (Jason .\lewes) and Silent Bob (played by Smith himself). The dick- obsessed duo do. however. serve a crucial function.