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<i>Dogma</i> Raises Eyebrows

Director Kevin Smith has a body of critically acclaimed low-budget hits. But his latest theatrical release, Dogma has inspired a hailstorm of criticism even before its release. The Early Show's Mark McEwen reports.
Dogma follows the trail of two fallen angels, played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who try to get back to heaven, even if their attempt will bring about the end of the Earth.

"If we cut off our wings, completely transubstantiate, we become mortal. If we die with clean souls, there's no way they can keep us out. We won't be angels anymore, but at least we get to go home," says Ben Affleck's character Bartleby in the film.

And as with many films with religious undertones, Dogma is getting unpleasant feedback from people who tend to take to placards and write complaint letters.

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The film is also full of profanity.

"I don't feel like harsh language is something that God's that up in arms about," Smith says. "I think there's a lot more to worry about. I mean, at the end of the day, harsh language doesn't really imply much beyond the fact that your vocabulary's of a limited range or scope."

"You show me a priest that hasn't been stuck in traffic or stubbed a toe that probably hasn't sworn, and you know I'll show you a saint, I guess," he adds.

Smith's moral barometer comes from his Catholic upbringing and from reading comic books, he says.

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Why are Catholics so set on dogging Dogma? Click here for a Salon.com feature.

"People will laugh at that kind of thing. But read your comic books, and they really kind of instill a moral barometer in you: right or wrong," he says.

"And what is the Bible if not kind of a more vivid historically accurate comic book?" he asks. "Full of superheroes like, you know, Jesus, who doesn't wear a big J on his chest, but, you know, can pull miracles out of a hat," he explains.

Smith's career began while he was working at a 7-Eleven store next to a video store.

"Clerks was our little golden ticket that kind of got us into this cool club where you get paid a lot of money to make pretend for a living," he says.

In 1994, Clerks received the Filmmakers Trophy Award at the Sundance Film Fstival as well as the International Critics Week Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Another recognized film by Smith is Chasing Amy, for which he won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Original Screenplay.

When it comes to films that Smith likes to rent, the top two have religious themes: A Man for All Seasons and The Last Temptation of Christ.

"Aside from them, I love Jaws," he reports. "I can watch Jaws, again and again and again. Which isn't really about faith. It's just about a big fish," he adds.

For more information about his new film, visit Dogma's official Web site.

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