Belly of the Beast

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

65/100

Erika Cohn’s directing and storytelling do not do a worthy story the justice it deserves. Clocking in at 72 minutes, this documentary is a concise exposé on forced sterilizations in California prisons. Throughout the movie we focus on two women: Kelli Dillon, a Black woman who was imprisoned after killing her husband, and Cynthia Chandler, former Co-Founder of Justice Now and current director of the Bay Area Legal Incubator (BALI), an attorney for compassionate release.

The driving narrative behind this doc is the intentional sterilization of women in prison. The filmmakers emphasize that women of color, and Black women in particular, are who suffer most from these practices. They detail at least a dozen or so cases of forced sterilization. On the surface, this is a story about reproductive injustice but, at the same time, it is so much more than that.

“Did this happen to me because I was all three?

Kelli Dillon, a Black woman and former inmate

The documentary is at its strongest when it talks about the intersections between health care service provision, race, and class in the United States. When these issues are intertwined, they make a compelling argument. The filmmakers also trace the history of eugenics to the early 20th century in the US. During that time period, about 20,000 forced sterilizations occurred in California alone. Later on, state audits and prison reports showed that 1,400 forced sterilizations occurred between 1997 – 2003.

This piece concludes on a more cheerful note with the passage of Senate Bill 1135 (2014), with bipartisan support, that prohibits the forced sterilization of inmates for birth control purposes. In 2019, Assembly Bill 1764 was introduced to establish compensations for forced or involuntary serializations victims. Kelli Dillon hopes that her story will help others come forward and set a standard that other states should follow. I would recommend this movie for anyone who wants a quick introduction to the US criminal justice system or is interested in law.

Recommended

Belly of the Beast Trailer

Belly of the Beast is currently available to watch through select Virtual Cinema Venues

Follow the links below to read the bills’ text, learn more about Justice Now, view a petition for survivors of forced serialization, and access the doc’s official site.

SB-1135 | AB1764 | Justice Now | Petition | Official Site Get Involved Page

Belly of the Beast is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up and Double Exposure Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

A Thousand Cuts

Written by Taylor Baker

85/100

“And we have a bomb threat, so that’s a good sign.”

A Thousand Cuts as many have aptly pointed out feels unfinished, which is more a beauty mark than a blemish. It seems fitting that a documentary about the volatility, development, and set backs presented to a democracy feels unfinished. The Philippines though is a democracy that may feel foreign and unknown to many viewers, it certainly was for me. A Thousand Cuts focuses on the story of Maria Ressa, targeted by the Filipino government for her work, she is a journalist, founding partner of Rappler Media, and CEO of Rappler Media. That resume does not begin to do justice to the human Maria is shown to be by the end of the film. Equally stoic as she is fleetingly humorous, she has a well of knowledge and a vocabulary that can easily convey her intent.

There’s been quite the hoopla made recently about Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, not to be comparative but this is a far superior, succinct, and eloquent demonstration of it’s many points-with a backdrop that feels all to familiar. The landscape presented of politics in the Philippines hinges with a war on drugs, social media influencers performing Pussy Cat Dolls songs, and people looking up in exaltation to a murderer handing out T-Shirts from the back of truck for votes. It’s plain that whatever story Ramona Diaz was filming to begin with, nothing could have prepared her for how this ended up.

I won’t spoil the actual happenings of the documentary here as that would take away from the thrust of it and it’s message. Suffice to say it’s a story we could all benefit from witnessing. PBS FRONTLINE will make this Documentary available in January of 2021 here in the U.S.. In the meantime you can view it in virtual cinemas, such as the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival here. This is one of the most impressive pieces of documentary film I’ve seen all year.

Highly Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/13/20

A Thousand Cuts is part of the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival 2020 line up.

DEIFF Website: https://dxfest.com/