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SDFF Alumni Films/Filmmakers - Women's Rights - Human Rights - Health Care

SDFF Film About Abortion, Women’s Health and Bodily Autonomy

  • 4 months ago

As you no doubt already know, the  U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, suspending legal access to vital reproductive health care for woman across the United States and effectively curtailing women’s rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy. In hopes of providing some educational resources that can lend context and dimension to the way in which this situation is understood, not as a political issue, but as a lived experience, here is a list of docs about women’s bodily autonomy and abortion that have recently shown at SDFF or that are the work of SDFF alumni. Each entry is  also available to stream online. These films include: On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2021), Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, SDFF 2020), AKA Jane Roe(Nick Sweeney, ed. Mary Manhardt, 2020), Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa (Mike Attie, Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater, 2020), and Vessel (Diana Whitten, SDFF 2014).

Photo of Norma McCorvey aka Jane Doe and attorney Gloria Allred outside of the U.S. Supreme Court after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protected women’s right to abortion across the United States in 1973. The decision was overturned in June of 2022. From the film AKA Jane Roe.

AKA Jane Roe is comprised of a series of interviews prior to Norma McCorvey’s 2017 death and reveals the unvarnished truth behind her journey from pro-choice to pro-life and back. The film adds important context to the recently-overturned, landmark Supreme Court decision by restoring texture and dimension to McCorvey’s life and experiences that illustrate people from marginalized communities who suffer the most without access to legal abortion, as well as the ways in which the politization of this medical procedure dehumanizes those whose lives are most impacted by it. The film is directed by Nick Sweeney and edited by Mary Manhardt, who also edited the SDFF 2017 film Racing Dreams (dir. Marshall Curry). AKA Jane Roe is available to stream for free on Hulu, and VOD on Amazon and Apple TV.

Still from May Cueva and Leah Galant’s 2021 doc On The Divide, which was featured on this week’s PBS POV.

On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2022) follows the story of three Latinx people living in McAllen, Texas who, despite their views, are connected by the most unexpected of places: the last abortion clinic on the U.S./Mexico border. As threats to the clinic and their personal safety mount, our three characters are forced to make decisions they never could have imagined. The SDFF 2022 official selection is available to stream on PBS’s POV series website. An interview with filmmakers Maya Cueva and Leah Galant was featured on the June 21 episode of radio show/podcast Latino USA (Futuro Media, PRX), “On the Divide: Fighting for Choice in the Rio Grande Valley,” and remains available to stream.

Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, SDFF 2020), a doc about the dangers of fetal rights laws that encourage the surveillance and criminalization of pregnant women, is available to stream VOD.

Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, SDFF 2020) a doc about the dangers of fetal rights laws that encourage the surveillance and criminalization of pregnant women, is available to stream VOD. The film examines the impacts of these laws, which disproportionately target lower income women and women of color, by focusing on Tammy Loertscher. Loertscher challenged a Wisconsin fetal rights law that eroded her privacy, her right to due process, and her body sovereignty. Her story helps illustrate how these laws work at  intersection of the erosion of women’s rights, the war on drugs, and the U.S.’s mass incarceration complex. Personhood is available VOD at Amazon PrimeiTunes and Apple TV.

Still image of one of the “lisas” taking calls at the abortion helpline, from Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa (Barbara and Mike Attie and Janet Goldwater, 2019).

Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa by SDFF alums Barbara and Mike Attie and Janet Goldwater documents an abortion helpline in Philadelphia, where counselors field urgent calls from who people who desperately need to end a pregnancy, but do not have the financial means to do so. The doc reveals the brutal impact of the Hyde Amendment, designed to prevent those struggling financially from access to abortion. An issue which is only exacerbated by the recent Supreme Court decision allowing states to ban abortion, and an earlier Supreme Court decision banning access medication abortions without an in-person physician visit. These rulings push abortion even further out of reach for lower income women. All three filmmakers involved in this project have shown work at SDFF. Mike Attie’s has shown Moment To Moment (SDFF 2020), In Country (SDFF 2014) and Mr. Mack’s Kitchen (SDFF 2010) at the festival, and  Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater have worked together on multiple projects, including Bob’s Knee (SDFF 2009). The film is available to stream for free on Amazon.

Dr. Rebecca Gompert of Women On Waves on board the titular Vessel of the doc, Vessel. Gompert and Women On Waves traveled the world by boat, providing an off-shore abortion clinic to women in countries where the medical procedure is outlawed. This idea has been floated as a possibility for women living in U.S. states where abortion has already been outlawed since Roe v. Wade was outlawed in late June.

Multi-national and filmed over the course of several years, Vessel (Diana Whitten, SDFF 2014) documents the work done by Dr. Rebecca Gompert and Women On Waves, which sails around the world, providing abortions at sea, and in some cases abortion training at sea, for women who have no legal altMulti-national and filmed over the course of several years, Vessel(Diana Whitten, SDFF 2014) documents the work done by Dr. Rebecca Gompert and Women On Waves, which sails around the world, providing abortions at sea, and in some cases abortion training at sea, for women who have no legal alternative. The film documents how Gompert and Women on Waves were able to find solutions to various legal constraints, training women to give themselves abortions using WHO-researched protocols and pills, creating a network of activists who trust women to handle abortion themselves. The idea of using off-shore vessels as possible women’s health clinics for women living in U.S. states where abortion is either heavily restricted or completely outlawed has since Roe was overturned in June has already been floatedVessel is available via iTunes, Amazon Prime and GooglePlay.

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