I arrived in Sundance on Friday morning totally freaked out about the Sundance flu and the cold. But now I'm on day 2 and so far so good. I hear there are people stuck in their hotels and condos (get better Jay!) with the flu so I am obsessively drinking water and using hand sanitizer.
The thing about Sundance is the first weekend here is just like the first weekend in Toronto. I'm kind of starting understand that all the big festivals have big front loaded schedules and then things chill out by Tuesday.
I picked up my press pass and then headed to my first screening Andrew Dosunmu's Mother of George written by Darci Picoult. The film tells the story of a woman Adenike (Danai Gurira) a woman who marries in a traditional African ceremony where she is re-named for her still to be born son George. The problem is the Adenike cannot get preganant, and quickly this becomes a very big problem because her only job is to produce George. It's always hard to watch a film where a woman has no other purpose in life except to have kids, but politics aside, this was a very original and interesting film. Dosunmu vibrantly presents a rich African culture that begins with a wedding the like I have never seen on the screen before. The colors jump off the screen, yet at the same time you see Adenike's world becoming smaller and smaller as she becomes more and more desperate to get pregnant. Danai Guria is curerntly on The Walking Dead and she is beyond terrific in this film. She brings to life an African woman living in NY trying to do what she was taught to do which is to be a mother. The subject of infertility has never been told this way before on film.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is After Tiller the chilling new documentary that introduces us to the couple of doctors left in this country who perform third trimester abortions. The film starts off with the murder of Dr. Tiller and takes us into the lives of four doctors: LeRoy Carhart, Warren Hern, Susan Robinson and Shelley Sella who are the last remaining people in the COUNTRY who perform this much needed procedure.
Here's the deal. NOBODY wants to get a third trimester abortion. The problem is some women NEED a third trimester abortion. The film introduces us to women and men who are given the shocks of their lives and are forced to make this most difficult decision. These are not easy decisions. What is so facinating is that politics is the farthest issue from these people's minds when they make the decision. They make these decisions out of heartbreak and necessity.
The doctors in this film are true heroes. They are people who as Dr. Hern says "every time I leave my house I expect to get assassinated." They are people who trust and believe in women. They believe that women make these decisions when they need to and that there need to be doctors to do this work. But because abortion is so politicized and most doctors are so scared, these people who stay in this business are all the more heroic. They are on front lines lines of the fight for reproductive freedom. What struck me the most about these doctors is how unpolitical they come off. Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson show us something that those people who work on the issue already know, an abortion is really hard to get in many places in this country, and if you get stuck in one of these desperat situations you have only 4 people to call -- and by the way they are all nearing or beyond retirement age. But they can't retire because they know what that would mean - there would be women that die or take matters into their own hands. The one good piece of news is that another provider is being trained to perform the procedure.