Landmark Films on the Fight for Reproductive Justice

Early New Day Films

In light of recently renewed debates about the rights of women, the fight for reproductive justice is more important than ever. In 1971 – while the women’s movement was still coming into its own – a group of independent filmmakers were unable to find distribution for their feminist films. New Day Films, born out of necessity and determination, remains a group of filmmakers committed to the ideals of equality, education, inclusion, hope, collaboration, and social change. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision on Roe v. Wade legalized a woman’s right to choose throughout the country. As the volatile and deeply personal issue of abortion becomes headline news once again, New Day Films will do what it does best – illuminate the past and inform the present by distributing social justice films that reveal a history of the people, by the people. This month we feature timely and provocative films that focus on the continuing struggle for women’s empowerment and reproductive justice.

Leona’s Sister Gerri

Acclaimed by the New York Times as being “forcefull, intimate, unpretentious and devastating…” the multi award-winning, P.O.V. broadcast film, Leona’s Sister Gerri, directed by Jane Gillooly, tells the dramatic story of Gerri Santoro, a mother of two and the “real person” in the now famous photo of an anonymous woman on a motel floor, dead from an illegal abortion. Reprinted thousands of times on placards, and in the media, this grisly photo became a pro-choice icon. Should the media have used this image? What circumstances led to Gerri’s tragic death? This film is a moving portrait of Gerri Santoro’s life and society’s response to her death.

It Happens to Us

First released in 1972, Amalie R. Rothschild’s film, It Happens to Us remains the classic plea for a woman’s right to choose. Through the personal stories of a wide range of women, both rich and poor, young and old, black and white, married and unmarried, it presents the most cogent arguments as to why ending a pregnancy must remain an available choice. In particular, it reminds people of the consequences when abortion was illegal and what life was like before the Roe vs. Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision. The New York Times called it “a jolting indictment of the furtive illegality of abortion”

Silent Choices

Silent Choices, directed by Faith Pennick, is about abortion and its impact on the lives of African American women. The film is a “hybrid” documentary – part historical piece, part social and religious analysis, and part first-person narrative. From African Americans’ cautious involvement with Margaret Sanger during the early birth control movement to black nationalists and civil rights activists who staunchly opposed abortion (or stayed silent on the issue), Silent Choices examines the juxtaposition of racial and reproductive politics. Justine Wadland of Video Librarian called the film “A solid investigation into the social, economic, and political aspects of reproductive rights for African-American women…”

For a list of more films on a variety of topics related to Women’s Studies, go  here.

October: Commemorative Month

Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty

October is National Disability Awareness Month, a time to learn about issues facing people with disabilities and celebrate their contributions. Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall, by Marlene Booth, follows a young disabled Native Hawaiian man, whose traumatic accident leads him to find healing through his indigenous language and history, and fight for his people. Tocando la Luz (Touch the Light , by Jennifer Redfearn, tells the story of three blind women in Havana, Cuba, who pursue their dreams while illuminating Cuba’s current economic and social landscape. Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty documents a Bay Area performance project that highlights people of color and queer people with disabilities, creating work about disability, sexuality and social justice. See more films about disability here.

Justice For My Sister

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and New Day has a number of films that explore this often unseen undercurrent that exists in so many people’s lives. Power and Control: Domestic Violence in America, by Peter Cohn, follows a mother of three in Duluth, MN, as she struggles to protect herself and her children. (Peter Cohn has also made two companion films: Domestic Violence and Law Enforcement, and Domestic Violence and Health Care.) Men are Human, Women are Buffalo, by Joanne Hershfield, mixes interviews and puppetry to tell five stories about violence against women in Thailand, where it is reported that 44 percent of women have been abused by a partner or stranger. Justice for my Sister, by Kimberly Bautista, follows a Guatemalan woman through a three-year battle to hold her sister’s killer accountable, in one of the few cases of domestic violence murder in Guatemala that has resulted in a conviction.

Meet New Day: Michael Premo

by Michael Premo

Michael Premo

My film Water Warriors tells the story of a community’s successful fight to protect their water from the oil and natural gas industry. When an energy company begins searching for natural gas in New Brunswick, Canada, indigenous and white families unite to drive out the company in a campaign to protect their water and way of life.

Water Warriors

This 22-minute film evokes the intensity of the Elsipogtog First Nation’s water protection blockades, which were a precursor to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests lead by the Standing Rock Sioux. It can be accompanied by a scalable exhibit that features large photographs, projections, and a soundscape. The project was designed so it could be presented on a range of scales and to a variety of audiences – from individual viewing online, to community screenings, pop-up exhibits at Pow Wows and outdoor events, to full gallery-style installations. Each venue will create a different viewing experience.

In response to a court ruling that banned protest near SWN worksites, a multi-cultural group of land protectors blockade Rt 126, blocking Royal Canadian Mounted Police vehicles, burning tires and shale gas exploration equipment. The few regional highways are major arteries for local traffic and the most direct routes through the thick forest. They provide an efficient thoroughfare for SWN to collect seismic data on the amount of natural gas hiding in the underground shale formations. On October 17, 2013, anti-fracking protests turned violent when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the encampment that had been peacefully blockading SWN’s equipment, preventing them from doing seismic testing- a prelude to fracking. The RCMP arrested 40 people while torched police cars sent clouds of black smoke into the air. Police pepper sprayed elders from Elsipogtog, fired sock rounds to control the crowd, and an RCMP officer was infamously recorded shouting “Crown land belongs to the government, not to fucking natives.” The community responded by steadfastly maintaining encampments in key locations to disrupt any attempted work by SWN. On December 6, 2013 SWN pulled out and ended their operations in New Brunswick. Community members believe they will return, and that the fight is far from over.

We have already partnered with communities in Oregon, Oakland, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Brunswick, Canada – all locations threatened by pipelines, fracking and offshore drilling. Water Warriors screening events have proven to be a fresh way of bringing together diverse groups of residents who don’t often intersect, who aren’t already involved with advocacy or an organizing effort, and who might not normally attend an “activist” meeting. We’ve also worked with Indigenous educators to develop a screening kit to accompany Water Warriors : a step-by-step guide that makes it easy for anyone to plan, promote and host a successful Water Warriors event or incorporate it into existing programming—even (and especially) if they’d never organized an event like this before. We are most proud of the ways that Water Warriors has directly inspired ordinary people to take action in their communities.