Can Dakota Fanning's "Hounddog" Ever Bite Back?

It's easy to understand why Hounddog is having such a hard time finding an audience. The Deborah Kampmeier film was a hot button when it debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival 18 months ago due to a (very) controversial rape scene shot with a then 12-year-old Dakota Fanning.

They say that any press is good press, but that's obviously not the case here. At Sundance, the film was plagued by bad reviews on top of watch dog groups demanding it be kept out of theaters. After the disastrous Sundance screening, the film's distributor injected $1 million for a complete re-edit of the film, Variety said.

Writer/director Kampmeier told Reuters that the response was "painful."

Kampmeier said the version shown at Sundance 2007 was rushed through editing to get a version finished in time to be screened. She knew there were ways to make it better, and refused to let the experience put her or "Hounddog" down.

So, she went back to the editing room and spent nine months cutting each scene in ways that enhanced the performances and making one key change to the story's structure.

Nevertheless, Hounddog finally opened last week in a whopping total of 11 theaters. After a week, the film has earned a little under $14,000. The new edit also garnered some positive reviews, though since it's not playing anywhere near me, I cannot confirm.

Look, here's the deal. Of course we don't want child actors to be exploited. One episode of that Danny Bonaduce show can pretty much tell you that. That said, it's ridiculous that everyone cries "child porn" whenever we have a movie dealing with underage rape. It's not like Dakota Fanning is full-on naked and objectified in the movie. Descriptions of the scene say that it's darkly lit and all you can see is Dakota's pained face begging for the assailant to stop. Does that sound like child porn? Jodie Foster did nastier stuff in Taxi Driver. She turned out pretty okay most of the time (other times, she has this aberrant tendency to star in Flightplan).

dakotafanning-14.jpgWell, okay, sure, you can make the case that such a blatant involvement of a minor in a lewd act—no matter how negatively portrayed—is going to illicit a reaction from pedophiles. Yeah, but you know what else pedos jerk off to? Dora the Explorer. How about we ban that from television too? That damn fox is getting on me nerves.

The film's distributor, Empire Film Group, told Variety that they're looking to use what buzz they have to retool the release to secure the best possible theaters. Does that mean they're looking to possibly expand the release towards a more reasonable limited release? Maybe it's better off to grassroots it with a DVD release, at this point...

If it weren't so toxic, Hounddog could've been a seminal movie for Dakota, transitioning her career from "impressive child star" to "actual respected actress." At 14, she definitely doesn't look like a child anymore.

Sep
27
2008
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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