No Woman, No Cry: Film Review

No Woman No Cry - H 2012

No Woman No Cry - H 2012

The bottom lijne: Christy Turlington Burns' rough-hewn but informative documentary concerns the important issue of maternal mortality around the globe.

Christy Turlington Burns' documentary sheds light on the issue of maternal mortality.

Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns makes her directorial debut with No Woman, No Cry, an impassioned documentary about the devastating health consequences of pregnancy and childbirth for far too many women around the globe. Personally inspired—Burns suffered a near fatal hemorrhage while giving birth to her first child—the film serves as a valuable educational tool even as it betrays its tyro filmmaker’s lack of directorial finesse.

Beginning with the declaration that 90% of the deaths suffered by women as a result of pregnancy are preventable, the film is separated into various sections devoted to individual cases in four different countries. The first, set in Tanzania, concerns a woman pregnant with her third child who suffers complications while being treated in a ramshackle clinic. The nearest hospital is many miles away, leading the filmmaker to provide the $30 necessary to hire a van to transport the woman over dirt roads so bumpy that one expects her to go into labor before she gets there.

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In Bangladesh, where culture dictates that the majority of women give birth at home, a woman refusing to go to a hospital is forced to change her attitude when she begins bleeding profusely. And a widower provides an emotionally harrowing account of how his wife bled to death before she could get the proper medical attention.

The strict anti-abortion laws in Guatemala result in thousands of women dying annually as a result of unsafe abortions, while in central Florida a midwife at a clinic for uninsured women decries the lack of health care opportunities for low-income patients.

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Narrating the film, Burns compares her subjects’ unfortunate situations with her comparatively cushy one, depicted in grainy home-movie footage shot by her filmmaker husband Ed, seen briefly reflected in mirrors.

The film is rough-hewn and uneven in its storytelling and presentational aspects. But it sheds light on an international health care crisis requiring more attention than it’s received, and for that alone it deserves credit.

Venue: Savannah Film Festival
Production: Turly Pictures.
Director: Christy Turlington Burns.
Producers: Christy Turlington Burns, Dallas Brennan Rexer.
Director of photography: Kirsten Johnson.
Editor: Sari Gilman.
Composer: Paul Brill.
Not rated, 60 min.