Category Archives: Documentaries | Film

A Documentary Series:
More Business of Being Born – S.1, E.2
Celebrity Birth Stories

Celebrity-Birth-Stories---More-Business-of-Being-Born-001

Celebrity Birth Stories, Episode 2 of a 4 part series

The duo (Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake) host the informative TV series More Business of Being Born (2011). It’s a follow-on to a documentary they produced together in 2008 titled “The Business of Being Born”, which explored contemporary child birthing experiences in the U.S.

In this second episode they discuss the expectations, doubts, fears, labours and experiences of motherhood with a selection of celebrities.

Celebrity-Birth-Stories---More-Business-of-Being-Born-002

A friend of mine, when I was about 20 weeks pregnant, invited me to go to a yoga class with Gurmukh. And in that class Gurmukh really starts reminding us that we are not sick when we are pregnant, if anything, she’s like “You’re actually stronger when you’re pregnant. Why would it work that God, or whatever you believe in, would make you weaker?”. You are stronger! Women have been giving birth naturally you know, for gazillions of years.
Cindy Crawford

I wanted to pull quite a few quotes from the episode because I was impressed to hear these women had such particular opinions regarding birth.
Some quotes are below and some are incorporated into the screen grabs I took whilst watching the documentary.

I never wanted to have a hospital birth. I didn’t want to be induced. I didn’t want to have any interventions at all. I wasn’t so sure about the idea of a home birth necessarily but I did have some friends who had had home births so I knew of it because of them.
-Christy Turlington Burns

I like to have goals and I like to reach my goals and, interestingly, giving birth naturally was a very big goal for me. And I think that it was partly that my mom gave birth naturally so I was like “I can do it!”.
If my mom can do it, I can totally do it.
-Kellie Martin

Christy Turlington Burns (left) & Kellie Martin (right).

Christy Turlington Burns (left) & Kellie Martin (right).

One of the women interviewed, Laila Ali, was incredibly passionate and pro home birth, against the grain of all those surrounding her who had very different opinions and were preferring hospitalised birth and selective surgery.

Interviewees talk about how much negative influence, specifically from their obstetricians/doctors, had on their pregnancy and birth experience as well as their feelings of safety and trust in their own bodies ability to do this thing. Because of this most of them had opted to educate themselves and have natural or home births.

Celebrity-Birth-Stories---More-Business-of-Being-Born-008

I love all three above images, especially the middle which is of Brazilian Giselle Bundchen, with their new borns.
The women discuss their birthing experiences, most of which are very positive and empowering, although Morissette (below) explains, rather comically, how hard it had been up until the moment she was holding her baby in her arms.

Celebrity-Birth-Stories---More-Business-of-Being-Born-004

I was as “prepared” as a woman could possibly be …and there was nothing that could prepare me for it! Nope.
And I’d watched all the videos of the women going into the field and giving birth to they own children. And that wasn’t so much my experience. 

– Alanis Morissette

Celebrity-Birth-Stories---More-Business-of-Being-Born-007

So much amazing wisdom from these very different and highly influential women. Their very pro-active approach to knowledge and education was one of the most inspiring aspects of the documentary.

Celebrity-Birth-Stories---More-Business-of-Being-Born-006

It is the most empowering experience ever… You’re deeply inside yourself but you’re also outside of yourself in the experience of labor and I think you get to actually look at your self and go,”Wow, look what I can do! Look what I’m made to be able to do! What an amazing thing!”I mean it gives you such an appreciation and a value in yourself which I think for women is really hard. In our culture too there’s such a self-loathing thing that happens and people aren’t happy and its always like “I can be better and I should look better”. To know that just by the nature of who you are and how you were made you’re able to do the most incredible thing ever. It just puts things into perspective in a way that think nothing else can.
-Christy Turlington Burns

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

A Documentary Series:
More Business of Being Born – S.1, E.1
Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives

 

Down on the Farm: Conversations with Legendary Midwife Ina May Gaskin, Episode 1 0f a 4 part series.

The duo (Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake) host the informative TV series More Business of Being Born (2011). It’s a follow-on to a documentary they produced together in 2008 titled “The Business of Being Born”, which explored contemporary child birthing experiences in the US.

Business of being born

In this first episode they visit The Farm Community in Tennessee were they have the opportunity to talk with Ina May Gaskin about birth trends and the art of midwifery.

The community of midwives that live and work from The Farm have a totally wholesome 1970’s air to themselves somehow, or at least look like they belong to the Waldorf community (which I say affectionately coming from the education system myself).

More Business of Being Born 001 Down at The Farm with Ina May Gaskin

The documentary takes a look at how the Farm and the midwives operate, their opinions on birthing and the impressive statistics they maintain.

At the time of filming there were 6 midwives present. The birthing professionals working from The Farm have been present at more than 2800 births and maintain a C-section rate of less than 2% which is incredible if you consider the Kingsbury Hospital in Cape Town has (so I’v keep hearing) a near 90% C-section rate (!).
The midwives maintain a “less is more” approach when it comes to handling the birthing process and so maintain a more hands-off stance which reminded me of the book Ruth Ehrhardt put together which described the best midwife as the one who does the least (making knitting a good sideline hobby for this profession!).

“Your stats here, I mean any medical institution has to respect the statistics, you have some of the best”, says Ricki.

“Your stats here, I mean any medical institution has to respect the statistics, you have some of the best”, says Ricki.


Abby, Ricki, Ina May and another midwife sit together in the kitchen and begin an in-depth interview.
They discuss how The Farm has never had a low risk patient go to high risk without there being “red flags” or warning signs. They point out the value of maintaining a close and deep relationship with their clients which is a big contributing factor I would think to their impressive outcomes.

More Business of Being Born 005 Down at The Farm with Ina May Gaskin
This kind of close-watch caregiving is missing in many modern obstetric practices which I believe leads to unnecessary intervention in the natural process of things. Anecdotes pertaining to fear and pain interrupt ones trust in the process and in ones body.

More Business of Being Born 003 Down at The Farm with Ina May Gaskin

They discuss confused perceptions about midwives not having medical backup or support or not working with doctors. Topics on tearing and pushing also come up from which I liked this from Ina May:

“Very occasionally there would be a tear and we’d notice that it was the woman that was in a hurry. Not because we were telling her to hurry but because she was in a hurry to get the baby here and make it be over.
But now when I see these births on television where everybody’s shouting at the woman and they count to 10 [shouting] “Push harder!” and all this, well, you don’t have to be told [to push]- sometimes a woman on an epidural might need some direction because she’s not getting the message from her body but normally, your uterus is going to do the work. And it does it at its own speed…”

Images taken from the web of The Farm Community  and Ina May Gaskin at work

Images taken from the web of The Farm Community and Ina May Gaskin at work.

Their interview/discussion is lengthy, both midwives impart really insightful information about many issues surrounding labour and birthing.

Ina May refers to how some of the best information currently found on birthing practices is found in the oldest books as apposed to current medical education where methodologies such as breach birthing are being excluded totally and replaced with Cesareans. Knowledge about natural birthing is being lost.

“The average person who’s gonna be doing obstetrics [now] will never have seen a normal birth…let alone a breech birth. So we’re crippling an important profession by not exposing people to this.”

Ina May's Birth Story (which I'm yet to watch), and further portraits of her on The Farm or training midwives.

Ina May’s Birth Story (which I’m yet to watch), and further portraits of her on The Farm or training midwives.

One of the most fascinating statement that Ina May brings up is sadly cut short by a subject change by Ricki and Abby…

“There’s something else that happens too: something that teenagers spontaneously will do, what orang-utan or any monkey or gorilla would do,- they’ll put their hands down over the crotch, probably touching the clitoris, and so, whats that going to do? Well, thats gonna send more blood [to where its needed] because women’s sensitive organs work the same way as mens: You stimulate them, they get bigger. [This is] sort of left out of the anatomy and physiology books that the obstetricians and really all doctors learn from. And so we’re trying to look at them, put the sexuality—I mean its your sexual organs and it could be that there are correlation’s, things we already know about, that could be useful [in birthing practice] but I think it was just this whole cultural thing of when men came into births they had to sort of deal with the whole modesty question and they did that by saying lets just excise this whole idea that this has anything at all to do with sex.”

Ricki and Abby move on to post date births and the handle of “overdue” babies. The midwives have a never ending stream of solid information to answer everything. They discuss convenience systems in hospitals, the invasive nature of insurance companies and the illusion that medical professionals are needed for the natural act of birthing.

More Business of Being Born 004 Down at The Farm with Ina May Gaskin

They talk about medications and procedures such as ultra-sounds, Demurol, Cytotec and epidural and the possibilities of the drug cocktail passed onto the baby through the mothers placenta and then given to the baby directly after birth. They wonder how much research has been completed on this specific subject. Mass diagnosis’s of  Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism have only really been so prevalent since the parallel inventions/use of certain techniques related to pregnancy and birthing. Its a scary yet intriguing conversation and makes one realise how many things we leave unquestioned. Many statistics are not at all true representations of cross sections of communities or societies since they are influenced by insurance and drug companies.

The episode closes with Ina May showing Ricki and Abby a quilting project she started which documents all the maternal deaths since 1982, the project is called Remember The Mothers.

More Business of Being Born 006 Down at The Farm with Ina May Gaskin

The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project is a national effort developed to draw public attention to the current maternal death rates, as well as to the gross under reporting of maternal deaths in the United States, and to honor those women who have died of pregnancy-related causes since 1982. This has become Ina May’s life work: reducing the fear of the natural process of birth. I also flung a TEDx link about this here.

Reducing-fear-of-birth-TEDx-by-Ina-May-Gaskin

I’m not all that familiar with Ricki Lakes work as an actress/talk show host/producer but really enjoyed the footage on The Farm and of conversations with the women there. Ina May Gaskin, who is now 75 years old, reminds me of my mother in the way she passionately and ever informatively expresses the issues she’s dealing and imparts the knowledge she’s gleaned from her years in her profession.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

An Advert: Passionfruit.co.za
NuMetro Cinema Ad for the launch of
50 Shades of Grey in South Africa

BTS-Passionfruit-Cinema-Ad-008-director-of-Photography-Leah-Hawker
In October 2014 I worked on an advert for www.passionfruit.co.za as director of photography.
The online sex-toy retailer had cleverly decided to advertise during the launch and screening of the much anticipated cinema block-buster “50 Shades of Grey” (launching Friday 13th February, 2015, TODAY!).

We had 20 seconds of advertising space, the ad would be the last one screened before the movie showed across the country, a creative and fun project to be involved with.

Some behind the scenes moments captured during the making of www.passionfruit.co.za's NuMetro cinema advert last year.

Some behind the scenes moments captured during the making of www.passionfruit.co.za’s NuMetro cinema advert last year at Banksia Boutique Hotel.

Ross Campbell did a fab job of shooting all the video footage and managed the editing and sound while I co-ordinated location, styling, models, props, concept and dialogue, etc. We shot over one day at the beautiful Banksia Boutique Hotel in Rosebank, Mowbray with our male figure Daryn (not pictured here) and model Yolande Malherbe who I worked with at Playboy a few years previously.

BTS Passionfruit Cinema Ad 025 director of Photography Leah Hawker
The concept was simple, fun and clear: www.passionfruit.co.za is the place you’re going to find your inner 50-Shades as they don’t just stock the original range, designed with the author of the book, but also another 1000+ similar goodies to spice up your bedroom life-style in which ever way you choose.

The ad played loosley on the characters in the movies’ storyline as well as having a touch of a BDSM feel in a very low-key way.

BTS-Passionfruit-Cinema-Ad-024-director-of-Photography-Leah-Hawker
I enjoyed the editing process which I’m not so familiar with since I only work with stills. The added elements of timing, movement and sound etc are so powerfully interpreted by a viewer…

I shot a few stills after the shoot for www.passionfruit.co.za to use as banner ads on their webpage or social media platforms if needed, and one or two pretty lingerie-ish ones just for Yolandi and myself.

Its the first time the negligee she’s wearing has ever been used from my lingerie collection….and its been in there for a good 10 years.

Passionfruit-Cinema-Ad-003-Banner-Still-shot-by-Leah-COMPRESSED
I mailed Yolandi these few pics a day ago and asked her what her thoughts were about the shoot we did together:

What did you think of the concept for the advert which was loosely based  on the characters of the 50 Shades movie?

I thought it was a clever. I mean, selling sex toys is never subtle or discreet, but the way this ad was done, was brilliant! When I heard who all would be a part of the production team, I was totally at ease and knew it would be done super professionally.

Your thoughts on lip-biting “know-how” now that yours will be cinema screen size?

It’s all in the name of pulling off a great job. I had my shy moments on set and I blushed when I saw the final results, but everyone knows I’m not conservative and very open minded. People will probably be like “Of course Yolandi is in this ad. Wasn’t she a sex columnist at one point?”

How do you think the movie 50 Shades of Grey will be received in SA….do you think passionfruit is going to run out of stock? 😉

I dont think SA is as conservative as before, so there will definitely be no protesters outside! Haha! People loved the book and now there’s a movie – recipe for success. And I most definitely think people are going to save the website link when they see the ad, just before they have to switch their phones off. And then when they get home….add to cart.

passionfruit-50-shades

I reckon 50 Shades has done quite a bit for South African conservatism in the bedroom…which means passionfruit have probably hit the nail on the head with their ad space. This quote from the passionfruit press release:

Jörg Masche, Co-Founder of Passionfruit.co.za, believes that the global phenomenon of the 50 Shades trilogy has lifted taboos and shifted stigmas, allowing people to expand their sexual consciousness and unwrap their sexuality without fear of judgement.“Activities such as role-play and BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission) have become acceptable thanks to 50 Shades,” adds Masche. “Kinky is in and, as a result, many couples who were playing around with the ideas of role play or something a bit saucier, can now experiment and have fun without any negativity attached to their sexual preferences.”

Passionfruit-Cinema-Ad-002-Banner-Still-shot-by-Leah-COMPRESSED
I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of press comes of the 50 Shades movie in SA media as well as hearing about how this advert effects www.passionfruit.co’s stock levels…

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

A Documentary: Sexy Baby, 2012

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 001

I found this documentary on Netflix and watched it the other day.

It details a story about three American women in three different cities: Winifred, age 12 (NYC), Laura, age 22 (North Carolina) and Nichole, 32 (Florida).

Their lives have nothing in common and the documentary aims to a look into the ideas of “sexiness” and our cyber-age and how its effects have influenced each one of the characters it follows.

As the documentary starts an anonymous female voice states:

“Its confusing, no one knows what empowered female sexuality looks like!”

Each of the women has views on her body and sexuality based on media related experiences. Winifred is coming-of-age and is struggling to find her identity amidst the chaos of puberty mixed with media pressures.

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 003
Winifred is at the same time aware of what she’s transitioning, she talks (with some wisdom for her age,) about how girls/women are trying to come to terms with their bodies, their identities and their place in society when she makes these comments about the effects of internet/social media etc on her life:

“We’re the first generation to have what we have and so there’s no one that can guide us, I mean, we are the pioneers.”

“Your Facebook profile is not necessarily who you are its more like who you want to be. We make ourselves seem, like, down to fuck.
[She pauses]
We make ourselves seem like we’re up for anything. And, like, in a way, all of this internet stuff kind of traps you.
You’ve started an alter ego that has to be maintained and has to be real in a way, so, yeah, I mean it does kind of shape how you end up and how you actually are in real life.”

“You’re going through so many changes that its confusing and you’re trying to figure out how you want to portray yourself…”

The documentary switches between the three women and also occasionally shows interview footage of other individuals and scenes, one of which was the below (screen shot) of three teenage boys:

Interviewer:“Have you ever seen a bush on a girl?” Teenage boy 1: “No, no bush” (he fakes a look of terror) Teenage boy 2: “Once, but I didn’t ever talk to her again!” (Laughter)

Interviewer: “Have you ever seen a bush on a girl?”
Teenager 1: “No! no bush!” (he fakes a look of terror)
Teenager 2: “Once, but I didn’t ever talk to her again!”
(Laughter)

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 009

Laura from North Carolina has become so pre-occupied with her self-identity that the only way she thinks she can feel comfortable and sexy would be to have cosmetic surgery on her vagina. She comments:

“When I first discovered labiaplasty and I told my Mom and my boyfriend of the time, they were both kind of like, “You don’t need to do that, you’re perfect the way you are.” But I feel like I already have this image in my head of what a labia should look like, and there’s not really anything that can be done about it now. Its like a permanent scar in my mind.”

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 004

She saves up for labiaplasty  and the documentary follows her story through the surgery and how the results effect her life and feelings of self-esteem.

Laura's surgeon reflects on the feedback he has received from her and many other patients who have had the same surgical procedure.

Laura’s surgeon reflects, with some solemnity, on the feedback he has received from her and many other patients who have had the same surgical procedure.

The third character in the documentary is Nicole (32) who started stripping when she was still in high school. She went from house-dancer to competitive-dancer to model and finally became an adult actress. She nostalgically relates how she wishes her life could have taken a different route and how difficult of a journey its has been to disassociate herself from her stage persona Nakita Kash  and re-identify with who she is as a woman and an individual, stating,

“I find myself, everyday, learning who Nichole is again.”

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 006

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 005

Nicole discusses her past and future plans and is the only character in the documentary who [sadly] has a reference point as to why the effects of our current social ideas on gender are so perverse.

She talks about how she plans to raise her own children differently after having experienced the whole shebang and now has a changed perspective…

“My children are not going to be allowed a computer in their own room. It’s going to be in the living room where everyone can see what they’re watching. I can’t, as a former adult film star, tell my children that seeing extreme porn on the internet is not acceptable. Just, those can’t be your first experiences. You have to take it a little bit slower than that.”

The documentary as a whole is chilling. Although not everyone is exposed to the extremes of  such a culture, media, advertising etc, there are still strong elements of these motifs, maybe just more diluted, that filter through in different ways to most societies.

After watching the documentary and pondering some of its messages and relativity I read some of the reviews, two of which (shown below) I thought were particularly poignant in their own ways.

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 010

Documentary SexyBaby 2012 ScreenShots 007

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someone