Birth. It’s a miracle. A rite of passage. Big business. And now, the subject of a documentary âThe Business of Being Born,â which opened at San Franciscoâs Roxie last night with star-studded hoopla, including appearances by director Abby Epstein and producer Ricki Lake of âHairsprayâ and talk show fame.
Epstein, fresh from a series of press interviews in New York City, was happy to chat by phone last week from the back of a taxicab, just moments after a somewhat disastrous movie screening at Roosevelt Hospitalâs grand rounds. To say that âBusiness,â the unabashedly pro-midwife, not-so-pro hospital documentary met with dismay there is a gross understatement. âWe were like a little rabbit,â Epstein said, âin front of a group of riflemen.â
But the film itself doesnât come across like the uber-feminist, crunchy granola tract on the evil medical industry those Roosevelt docs feared. Instead, it’s a well-reasoned, disturbing, but ultimately uplifting look at childbirth and the forces that have turned the most natural of human experiences into a mass of medical interventions, skyrocketing C-sections and the second worst infant mortality rate in the modern world.
And the conclusion, in which Epstein, who discovered she was pregnant halfway through the filmmaking process, delivers her son, provides an unexpected twist that made the movie all the better â more honest, more real, more human.
âOur goal was to expose a really flawed maternity system that is going in the wrong direction,â says Epstein. âWe set out to make the film to empower women and promote choice, and thatâs really what itâs about for us. Itâs not have a homebirth, have a midwife. But donât just read âWhat to Expect When Youâre Expecting.â That book tells you what to be afraid of. Youâve got to research this and be a real advocate for yourself. We want to give birth back to women, and if they donât want just a traditional, elective C-section or hospital birth, if they want to have something more spiritual, know that itâs out there.â
Two thumbs up. The film, which was produced by Netflixâ indie production company, Red Envelope Entertainment, is at the Roxie now through Jan. 24 and it comes out on DVD Feb. 12 on, of course,Â Netflix.