When the Supreme Court rules this spring on a landmark case concerning abortion clinics, filmmaker Dawn Porter’s documentary “Trapped” will be playing in theaters, special screenings and on public television.
Although the documentary cannot affect the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the landmark case challenging “TRAP” (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws that have forced closure of women’s reproductive health clinics throughout the U.S., the film’s strategically timely release in the middle of a heated election campaign year can influence voters.
“Given the pending Supreme Court decision, we realize this is an exceptionally rare opportunity for a documentary to be accessible at precisely the moment the issue addressed crystallizes in the collective social consciousness,” said “Trapped” producer Marilyn Ness in a press release.
To allow nationwide exposure for the issue-framing documentary, which will be released in theaters March 4, a consortium of indie film distributors – Ro*Co Films, Abramorama, Film Sprout and PBS Independent Lens – partnered closely in the movie’s roll out.
“As distributors, we are usually windowed against each other,” said Ro*Co Film’s Annie Roney in a press release. “But Abramaorama and Film Sprout were willing to try something new, so that all of America can access the film and see it together – whether that be in big city commercial theaters or on college campuses or in community centers and private homes. It’s not unlike our larger goal – to keep access to abortion available to every woman in every state.”
“Trapped,” which won the Sundance Film Festival’s 2016 special jury award for social impact among U.S. documentaries, follows administrators and clinicians as they struggle to keep clinic doors open so patients in need can receive services on a timely basis. It looks at TRAP regulations that cost a lot but contribute little to service and procedure: using a linen service rather than disposable paper products, drugs that must be stocked and refreshed although they are never prescribed, multiple oxygen outlets on the wall instead of portable units. Smaller clinics that cannot comply with these TRAP regulations must close, causing larger facilities to experience an influx of more patients than they can possibly serve.
The stories of individual patients in the film are particularly compelling: A teenage girl impregnated during a gang rape has to travel to another state, which she cannot afford to do, to get an abortion. An older pregnant woman who cannot afford to care for another child emotionally, physically or financially drives cross country with her family – husband and several kids – and they camp out in their cramped RV in the clinic parking lot for weeks in order to comply with TRAP-designated prep dates, procedures and follow up dates. Both women desperately need help, and it’s eluding them.
There are interviews with legislators too — both those who’ve enacted the TRAP laws and those who oppose them — so viewers can have these voting records at the top of their minds when they go to vote.
Back to This Week’s Openers
“A War,” a Danish drama nominated for this year’s best foreign film in the Oscar, opens in theaters Feb. 12. This beautifully crafted film is about soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and the impact combat has on them and on their families, both while they’re at war and after they return home. Written and directed by Tobias Lindblom, the film follows the troop’s commander on the battlefield and then to his hometown in Denmark, where he is charged with ordering an attack on what turned out to be a civilian compound, and faces imprisonment for war crimes. The situation is devastating to the commander, his wife and children; and to the other soldiers in his company. It’s fascinating to see the very different Danish perspective on a war-themed story not unlike those told in American films about soldiers who return home and can’t quite make it back into civilian life.
Another opener this week seeks to have social impact. “Where To Invade Next” is Michael Moore’s documentary about taking an around-the-world journey to find public policies that are superior to – and work better than – those followed in the good old U.S.A. Moore taps America’s imperialist reflex, suggesting we plunder these policies– as we have done with various commodities – and make them our own. With characteristic humor, the activist director interviews kids who are served gourmet school lunches, chats up university students who are actually paid (instead of paying) to gain greater knowledge and develop their minds, marvels at incarcerated murderers entrusted with knives in their daily prison kitchen jobs and ferrets out other such brilliantly civilized behaviors that we’d be clever to import – but probably won’t. Alas.
“Touched with Fire” is writer/director Paul Dalio’s drama starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as a pair of hospitalized manic depressive poets who refuse to take stabilizing medication for fear it will interfere with their creative flow. Their love affair is a roller coaster ride of unpredictable ups and downs that exacerbates their individual internal emotional chaos. The gripping script explores the intersection of creativity and madness, and embraces both with love. Holmes and Kirby are marvelous.
“How to Be Single” is a raucous femme-centric comedy about the New York City dating scene, as negotiated by two single gal pals. Dakota Johnson plays the naïve and introverted initiate to Rebel Wilson’s savant of such things as getting guys to buy you drinks. The plot is slight. Co-written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Knox, the script (based on Liz Tuccillo’s novel) plays like a long run of one-liners. It’s too superficial to elicit any emotional engagement and too stereotypical to provide an entertaining escapade. But, if you admire Wilson, she’s all over it.
Stay tuned for next week’s movie post!