or whenever really …
No matter how much you read, nothing will truly prepare you for the moment when you become a mother. We generally know this, of course, but, speaking from experience, I thought that the more I read, the more competent and prepared I would be when our first baby would finally be born. I found that the range of films available at that time was surprisingly dissatisfying and my main source of information ended up from books. There was a distinct shortage of films that accurately portrayed the experience of giving birth and becoming a parent.
Since having my daughters however, there have been several outstanding films, documentaries and series that have been released. I will review my personal favourites, although they may not be as commercial and as well known as some of the others in this genre, such as Knocked Up, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Life As We Know It, Father of the Bride II etc.. Truthfully, I feel that a lot of these ‘baby rom coms’ are partially responsible for maintaining certain stereotypes around pregnancy and childbirth and skewing our expectations of the experience.
Here are five of mine:
One Born Every Minute, the 2010 BAFTA Winner for Best Factual Series, is literally a fly on the wall documentary about what goes on in a hospital maternity ward. The film makers set up 40 cameras throughout the ward, including the delivery rooms, corridors and the midwives tea room, and left them there to film. Each episode focuses on the birth experience of a few couples – from the time they enter the hospital to the birth of their babies. The result is a set of incredibly personal and intimate journeys, interwoven with more formal interviews with the midwives on the nature of their work. We not only see the reality of what birth looks like in the hospital system, but we witness the drama of each couple coping in their own ways with the incredible joy, fear, love, pain, fatigue and stress of having a baby. While my own midwife was horrified by this series (there were very few completely natural births shown), I loved how the process of labour and the various interventions available were demystified. I was absolutely addicted to this series when it screened on SBS (which happened to be during my second pregnancy) and I’m happy to see that it has continued on to a fourth season. Most of the series can be found on youtube. There is also an American version.
Away We Go (2009), is a brilliant comedy directed by Sam Mendes, starring Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski. It’s a film about a couple’s emotional and literal journey towards parenthood. Verona (Maya) and Burt (Krasinski), a young but down to earth couple, discover that Verona is pregnant and decide to travel around the US to find a place where they would like to settle down and start their family. They visit relatives and friends, but with each visit, they find it hard to relate to their hosts’ lives and they feel like they are no closer to discovering where they belong and what they are going to be like as parents. The supporting characters in Away We Go have some of the best lines in this film, especially Maggie Gyllenhaal who is hysterically funny as the new age mum deeply devoted to attachment parenting. This film is a warning about the dangers that may await us when we become parents i.e. that by adopting certain ideologies and parenting styles we may turn into caricatures of ourselves! You can watch Away We Go on iTunes.
Babies (2010), directed by Thomas Balmès , is a lovely French documentary in the style of Baraka, without dialogue or voice over, and shows us the first year in the life of four babies from around the world. We see babies from dramatically different environments – one is from Tokyo, one from Namibia, one from the plains of Mongolia and one from San Francisco – and yet they are similar in so many ways. The film is purely observational, and although its lack of depth is a little unsatisfying, it’s ultimately a celebration of the universality of the human condition. Babies is available for viewing on iTunes.
The Face of Birth (2011) is an Australian-made documentary about home birth. It contains interviews with leading midwives and obstetricians from around the world such as Sheila Kitzinger and Michel Odent, as well as stories from mothers who chose to birth either at home or in a birthing center. If anyone is even remotely interested in alternatives to hospital birth, or even just drug free births, this documentary outlines very compelling and well-researched arguments.
The Business of Being Born (2008), is a low budget documentary directed by Abby Epstein and produced by Ricki Lake. Ricki Lake had an unsatisfying first birth in hospital and afterwards was led to make this film. It examines the conventions of birth in modern day America and how many practices may be undermining women’s health and power and contributing to high rates of infant mortality and Cesarean deliveries. It is decidedly biased in favour of natural home births and ignores the many women who’ve had satisfying hospital deliveries but it does make a case for informed choices. You can see the entire film on youtube here.
Dominika Ferenz – Moving Pictures
Dominika is a filmmaker, photographer and mother of two girls. She studied film and photography at UTS, completing a Bachelor of Communications (Honours). She now spends her time chasing the perfect shot or her girls and often both at the same time. You can see her photographs and films on her blog dominikaferenz.com or check out her company, ikonfilm at ikonfilm.com.au
Life Balance = Laughter. Yoga. Solitude.