No Safe Spaces
|No Safe Spaces|
|Directed by||Justin Folk|
|Produced by||Mark Joseph|
|Written by||John Sullivan|
|Music by||Chris Jagich|
|Edited by||Justin Folk|
|Distributed by||Atlas Distribution Company|
No Safe Spaces is a 2019 American political documentary film directed by Justin Folk that features commentator Dennis Prager and comedian Adam Carolla talking to college students and faculty about university safe spaces. The documentary also covers free speech controversies occasioned when political conservatives are invited to speak in university settings. The film was released in Arizona theaters on October 25, 2019, and was successful enough to have a national release on December 6, 2019. It has received mixed reviews from critics.
With production beginning in 2017, the filmmakers were on hand for commentator Ben Shapiro's September 14, 2017, speech at the University of California, Berkeley, a site of civic protests and unrest. The film focuses on such speech disruptions in America, but also examines similar incidents in Canada with Jordan Peterson. In particular, it shows the case of Lindsay Shepherd who was disciplined at Wilfrid Laurier University for using a recording of a debate with Peterson in class. It also "denounce[s] censorship in China". "Carolla said, 'We'd be hypocrites if we did a movie about the suppression of free speech but didn't mention China.'"
In a scene filmed at the Laugh Factory, comedians complain that audiences on college campuses are too easily offended now. Among these comedians are Adam Carolla with Karith Foster, Tim Allen, Andrew Schulz, and Bryan Callen.
The film discusses the story of Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at the Evergreen State College in Washington state, who resigned after he was criticized for attending the university during a "Day of Absence" that was a long-standing tradition during which ethnic minorities would voluntarily stay home from campus to highlight their contributions to the college. Weinstein had objected to a change made that year to the event, which asked white participants to attend off-campus programs for the day. Weinstein and his wife, a fellow professor, resigned citing hostility relating to their refusal to participate in the Day of Absence.
According to the Washington Examiner, the filmmakers worked to include "left-leaning" views in their movie. CNN's Van Jones complains that too many young people have not learned how to defend their views. Attorney Alan Dershowitz criticizes many college leaders and "the hard left" for not standing up for free speech. Commentator Dave Rubin argues that liberals should also fear "the mob". The film shows former U.S. President Barack Obama saying "Anybody who comes to speak to you ... you shouldn't silence them."
In dramatized scenes, Griffin Kramer portrays the young Adam Carolla, and Joseph Servin portrays the young Dennis Prager.
No Safe Spaces has received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 47%, based on 17 reviews, with an average rating of 5.35/10. Metacritic reports a 31 out of 100 score, based on five reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Many critics panned the film as biased. For The A.V. Club, Vadim Rizov gave the film an F, summing up, "This isn't an argument for free speech, it's just paranoid whining, complete with a roundtable of comics sympathetically agreeing how sad and scary this all is, plus images of the Statue of Liberty with tape over its mouth." John Wenzel of The Denver Post gave the film two stars and noted "Frequently, the film asserts that words have power — why else would you want to make sure colleges are hosting conservative speakers? — but then hedges the assertion by saying people are too readily offended these days. Which is it?" The Los Angeles Times review also panned it as one-sided and "disappointing agitprop".
Some critics reviewed the movie positively. Alan Ng of Film Threat gave the film a 90 and wrote in his review, "When it’s all said and done, this film is offensive only to those who don't want to watch it." Variety's Owen Gleiberman praised the movie's defense of free speech, stating "the most head-turning point made by No Safe Spaces is that today's anti-free-speech radicals, who on many college campuses dominate the discourse, are going to be tomorrow's leaders."
As of March 2020, the movie had taken in $1.3 million at the box office. On its opening night, the film earned an estimated $45,000 on one screen in Phoenix, the production team said, adding that the only documentary that earned more from one screen on an opening weekend was Michael Moore's Sicko in 2007. The per-screen average was $3,542. No Safe Spaces, which opened in limited release on October 25, 2019, came close to topping Terminator: Dark Fate in Denver and San Diego theater complexes over the weekend, and ended up finishing a close second to the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster in those venues after final figures came in.
After its theatrical release, Salem Media Group made the film available as a video on demand. This is the first time Salem distributed a film. Prager criticized Netflix for rejecting the film, but paying $10 million for Knock Down the House, which did not have a theatrical release.
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- Rizov, Vadim (October 23, 2019). "'Debate Me, You Coward' Takes Movie Form in Adam Carolla's Abysmal No Safe Spaces". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
- Wenzel, John (November 1, 2019). "Review: "No Safe Spaces" talks itself in circles around free-speech on college campuses". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- "Review: Free speech doc 'No Safe Spaces' clearly sides with one set of voices". Los Angeles Times. November 15, 2019.
- Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times (December 5, 2019). "'No Safe Spaces' explores free speech on campus". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
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- "Salem, the leader in talk-radio, will make its debut in film distribution with a movie from Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager". Newsweek. March 26, 2020.
- Kaplan, Talia (October 27, 2019). "'No Safe Spaces' sees massive box office haul on just 1 screen, ahead of broader rollout". Fox News. Retrieved November 12, 2019.