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The team behind new PBS legal documentary Belly of the Beast has released a lyric video for the original song “See What You’ve Done,” written by Mary J. Blige, Nova Way and DJ Camper and performed by Blige.
The R&B singer-songwriter isn’t new to working music into film. Blige has nine Grammy Awards and scored a pair of Academy Award nominations for best supporting actress and best original song for her song “Mighty River” from the 2017 film Mudbound.
The lyric video opens with narration by the film’s focus, ex-convict Kelli Dillon, who tells her story while images of prison, medical facilities, legal offices and her own home flash across the screen. “I was about 24. I began to experience, like, an abdominal pain. I was chained up just to go out for surgery. When I came out, I felt like something was wrong.” Dillon pauses, before verbalizing the realization that many incarcerated women come to: “I have been intentionally sterilized, and I have been lied to.”
Directed by Erika Cohn, Belly of the Beast chronicles the near-decadelong fight to shed light on the forced sterilization of women’s prison inmates in California. The film highlights this reproductive injustice with personal accounts from formerly incarcerated individuals.
The early lyric, “The world can decide if a caged bird flies,” is a reference to Maya Angelou’s seminal autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which the poet describes the racism and trauma that have impacted her life.
The song culminates with Blige singing the line, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” accompanied by images of protestors, Dillon and her legal team in a courtroom, with shackles falling to the ground.
The song takes the perspective of the survivors of this underreported injustice and challenges the people in charge of the forced sterilizations to confront their actions and “see what [they’ve] done.”
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Robert De Niro