PALM SPRINGS (Hollywood Reporter) - Apparently Prissy from
"Gone With the Wind" isn't the only one who don't know nothin'
about birthin' babies.
From the perspective of "The Business of Being Born," an
eye-opening look at maternity in America, the nation's
hospitals and insurance companies place a close second.
Initiated by executive producer Ricki Lake and directed by
Abby Epstein, this investigation of contemporary childbirth
"management" is in many ways "The Inconvenient Truth" of
obstetrics, not to mention a convincing endorsement of
A close-up and personal film, in which several of its
subjects -- including Lake -- allow the camera to capture their
chosen methods of delivery in indisputably intimate detail,
"The Business of Being Born," screened at the Palm Springs
International Film Festival ahead of a limited theatrical run
(it will be offered by Netflix in February), is a must-see for
any woman who's pregnant or planning to have kids.
At first glance, the notion of deliberately giving birth
outside of a hospital (as Lake did in 2001, in her bathtub with
her second child) might seem to be a risky proposition.
But then come all the disturbing questions:
- Why does the U.S. have the second-worst newborn death
rate in the developed world?
- Why are more than 40% of the deliveries done in some New
York hospitals all Cesarean sections?
- And why, according to a study, are the peak hours for
Cesarean procedures at 4 in the afternoon and 10 at night?
As the film probes the circumstances that have led to
midwife-attended births in America dropping from 50% in 1938 to
less than 8% today (whether in or outside hospitals), while in
the five countries with the lowest infant mortality rates,
midwives figure into 70% of those births, it points to those
Michael Moore-approved usual suspects: namely the health care
and insurance industries.
But though some doctors admit to pressing for
time-efficient, $14 billion-a-year Cesarean sections as a way
of avoiding negligence claims, and questionable practices are
nothing new (Thalidomide, anyone?), "The Business of Being
Born" makes its best case when documenting those natural-birth
Casting vanity to the wind, Epstein's subjects permit Paulo
Netto's unimposing camera to witness the miracle of birth in a
big-business-free environment, and the effect, like the
production itself, is as poignant as it is potent.
Director: Abby Epstein; Executive producer: Ricki Lake;
Producers: Abby Epstein, Amy Slotnick, Paulo Netto; Director of
photography: Paulo Netto; Editor: Madeleine Gavin.