The irreconcilable differences in the abortion debate are simply and superficially observed.

The irreconcilable differences between pro-choice and anti-abortion interests in the U.S. are simply and superficially observed in Heidi Ewing’s and Rachel Grady’s “12th & Delaware.” A rather pointless exercise in the wake of Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire,” a more powerful and troubling doc on the abortion debate, this is also a wisp of a movie compared with Ewing and Grady’s own memorable “Jesus Camp.” HBO airdates later this year will provide the greatest exposure for a doc with limited commercial reach.

On the corner of 12th & Delaware in Fort Pierce, Fla., a conventional women’s health-care center, which provides abortion services, and an anti-abortion clinic offering pregnancy care uneasily co-exist on opposite sides of the street. It’s a striking image of the national divide; the health-care center is plagued by a dogged group of protestors who hound patients arriving for appointments and even yell through the clinic windows.

This is interesting for about two minutes; over the better part of an hour, it seems endless, and underlines the sense that “12th & Delaware” should have been a short. The same group of about a dozen Christians picket the clinic daily, seemingly from predawn until night. Its fair to ponder, as clinic staffer Candace does peering out a window at the protestors, if these people have a life. A particularly creepy dude among the protestors actually spies on an abortion doctor during a supposedly safe dropoff rendezvous with clinic staffers.

The docu cuts between this dull spectacle and the goings-on in the Christian-run clinic, where topper Anne Lotierzo counsels pregnant women and girls not to abort. Intimately shot sessions observe Anne handing out medical myths and untruths, ranging from lying to patients about the time span of their pregnancies to the notion that the abortion process can cause cancer.

Much less time is spent with Candace and husband Arnold in their clinic, and the greatest insight gained is, unsurprisingly, that the two feel under siege in their workplace. Candace’s bedside manner with patients is gentle, though filming is inexplicably much less intimate than with Anne.

Verite technique is handled blandly by the filmmakers, with d.p. Katherine Patterson deploying telephoto lenses for dramatic effect. David Darlings cello-based score is typical of a recent trend in TV-funded docs for droning minimalism on the soundtrack.

12th & Delaware

Production

An HBO Documentary Films presentation in association with Loki Films. Produced by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady. Executive producer, Sheila Nevins. Supervising producer, Sara Bernstein. Directed by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Katherine Patterson; editor, Enat Sidi; music, David Darling; sound (stereo); sound designer, Ion Furjanic; sound re-recording mixer, Tom Efinger; associate producers, Christina Gonzalez, Craig Atkinson. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 25, 2010. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

(English, Spanish dialogue)

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