CIFF 2012 Day 5

The festival carries on until Sunday, but this is our last day.

Freedom for Birth (UK) (site)

Another day, another documentary.  It can be a bit overwhelming to realise that there is enough going wrong in the world to ensure the documentary film-making strand has enough subject matter to keep it going, and growing, for some time yet.  In a bid to join the wave, some producers have perhaps chosen subjects that might be seen as not of the highest priority.  Not so here, as it deals with the most fundamental of human rights - that of a mother to decide how, and where, she has her baby.

This basic right seems obvious when stated directly, but many people around the world do not recognise it as such.  Many women do not realise it is their choice to make, and many in power do not allow the choice to be made.

The fate of two women on the receiving end of actual legislation to block this right are profiled here.  Agnes Gereb is a Hungarian midwife, currently under house arrest.  Her crime? assisting mothers to have their children at home, rather than in a hospital.  Anna Ternovsky is one of thousands of mothers who were helped to have a natural home birth by Gereb and went to the Court of Human Rights to fight for the rights of women to be reaffirmed and clarified, at least in Europe.  But around the world, and not just restricted to the crazy countries either, these rights are being continually denied.  Stories of women being forced by a court to have a hospital induced birth, maybe by invasive C-section, is something I never thought I would hear about in a civilised society in the 21st century.  But here it is.

Though Freedom for Birth certainly highlights some major injustices in our approach to the most important part of a human experience, it had some issues that stopped it being all it could be.  The film was subtitled throughout, even in the English speaking segments (I suspect because the film-makers guessed that the screenings would be full of mothers with screaming kids - which ours was) but the subtitles were not exactly what was being said sometimes, and were peppered with spelling mistakes.  The presentation also felt a little sloppy, as if the PR division of your nearest multinational had been taken on to do a commercial-style introduction to the film, and they had just figured out how to put scrolling, zooming text onto the screen and were determined to show people how good they were getting.  The whole film had this unfinished taint to it.  But my main criticism of the film was that it was very one-sided.  There was no option given to allow doctors to present their side of the story and give their account of why mothers are routinely denied the right to make an informed choice.  I have no doubt that the film was accurate in it's portrayal of Gereb, but it would have been good to hear the other side of the story - such as representative doctors and nurses, who allegedly deny these services.

But these flaws don't stop it being an important film that highlights some shocking practices, many at out front door.  8/10

Come as You Are (Bel) (wiki)

The exploits of three disabled friends as they organise a trip to a brothel sounds like a low-brow American goofball flick.  And somewhere, there will be a direct-to-dvd example that exactly fits this premise.  But this film was made in Europe, so there was going to be a chance it wouldn't be as horrible as it sounds.

Lars is disabled since his inoperable brain tumor rendered him unable to use his legs.  Josef has the use of his legs, but can barely see anything.  Philip is almost completely paralysed, and is completely dependant on others for help.  All in their twenties, they meet regularly and are good friends.

Secretly, they have been plotting the trip of a lifetime - one they wish to take without their parents. Heading through France and into Spain, getting a view of the world they don't see within their suffocating bedrooms.  After a little persuading, their parents agree to a heavily-regimented holiday with every minute accounted for, but the trio have missed out one detail - their intended destination is at a brothel in the heart of Spain, one that caters specifically for the needs of disabled customers.

A last minute setback hits Lars hard.  His tumor is growing aggressively, and the holiday is put off - by the parents, but not the friends, who enlist the help of Claude - an overweight, resigned minibus driver - to get them there on the quiet.

Come as You Are immediately reminded me of Third Star, with both films heading to a very similar conclusion.  The Belgium effort however manages to be a little deeper with character development, and a more evenly-distributed focus to the progression of the plot, although it's ending was a smidge weaker.  However both films are excellent examples of buddy-road movies with an emotional clout. 8/10

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