The US Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, on Friday 14 June overturned a ruling that for nearly half a century guaranteed American women's right to abortion. As a result, an estimated 36 million US women will lose access to abortion in their states, according to Planned Parenthood research, a healthcare organisation. A New York Times analysis shows that after the new ruling, half of US states will ban abortions.
The film that opened TIFF.21, Call Jane, is about the conservative 60s, when abortion was illegal in the US. It also talks about the sinister effects of that kind of ban.
We're facing a conservative time in America, where tradition trumps all. We are in the late 1960s, and abortion is illegal. Joy's (Elizabeth Banks) pregnancy, a true housewife, puts her life in danger. She doesn't know what to do. “Fall down the stairs, that's how I've got it,” comes one solution.
Joy still chooses to go before the board and ask for an emergency termination. Her request is denied: the law will be upheld if there is even a small percentage chance that the woman will survive. But Joy isn't the type to risk her life for a law that doesn't take into account her wishes or her problems, so she sets off in search of alternatives.
The solution comes from Jane, an underground organization that Joy discovers, tests out for herself, then gets so involved that she fills the neighbourhood with pies in the time it takes to practice her curettage technique on a pumpkin. Because the double life of an American suburban wife better go through the stomach to stay secret.
Jane's network existed in reality and, between 1969 and 1973, provided medical services to enable women to have the right to make decisions about their own bodies under optimal conditions. During this period, an estimated 11 abortions are believed to have taken place.
Call Jane is a happy ending story, upbeat and determined to say something about the power that lies ready to be discovered in any of us, and especially about how important it is to try to help, whenever, by whatever means, as much as we can.
The film is set to the tune of 'Let the Sunshine In', which we can feel as an appeal to fight for life. The fact that stellar Joy doesn't lose anything along the way is almost unbelievable, but terribly touching and urges us to fight for what we have, to enjoy every moment. An optimistic message and a much-needed sentiment for the reality we live in, showing us that history repeats itself, with all its faults.
The film officially opens the event in the Open-Air Union Square and can be seen today, 26 June, at 10:00 at Victoria Cinema.