It’s So Personal On The Silver Screen

A reader writes:

I hope you are still curating the long-running thread on suicide as you did for abortion. Around the web, I still see the abortion thread linked to, as recently as yesterday, when a commenter over at Pajiba did so regarding the trailer for a new documentary, After Tiller, about America’s late-term abortion providers.

I look forward to the film: the trailer states there are now only four doctors in the country who can perform late-term abortions. Four. “I can’t retire; there aren’t enough of us.” Keep in mind that it seems likely (film unseen, of course) that the four people so described are the only four of whom the public is aware, because they operate in clinics whose services are publicly known. This makes me angry, since whatever legal restrictions anti-abortion people enact, the same conditions won’t apply to rich women, who have access to money, privacy, and lawyers – power unimaginable for poor women. What was the birthrate for Congressional wives before Roe v. Wade? Before contraception? What does “preferential option for the poor” mean anymore?

The reason to continue the suicide thread is the same as for abortion: until we hear the stories behind life-and-death decisions, we base our judgments on abstracts and absolutes, missing the human part of the equation. We need these points of view.

Agreed, and we will continue both threads as best we can. From what Katie Walsh says in her review of After Tiller (a clip seen above), the film seems very much in the spirit of our anonymous “It’s So Personal” series:

[The film’s] heartbreaking stories [of those considering late-term abortion] are sensitively captured by [filmmakers Lana Wilson and Martha Shane], who chose not to show any of the patients’ faces to cloak their identities but also as a stylistic choice, and as they tell their stories in counseling sessions, the camera rests on a shoe fidgeting, or a hand clutching a tissue. Just focusing on their voices and stories is such a powerful thing within the film, listening to the women as the doctors and counselors listen to them. This gentle approach is what “After Tiller” does so well in its treatment of this tough material.

The doctors and nurses themselves are gentle and compassionate, and Wilson and Shane are wise to mirror that in their filmmaking. While the sight of anti-abortion protestors may inspire a certain reaction from an audience member depending on their personal beliefs, there is nothing in the film’s presentation to vilify or ridicule them. They are presented as part of the reality and struggles, the obstacles that these doctors must face in order to do their work, but the film also allows their voices to be heard in this debate.

The full trailer: