FR 2020 | Director, Script: Aude Pépin | Camera: Sarah Blum, Emmanuel Gras | Editor: Carole Le Page | Sound: Claire-Anne Largeron | Music: Benjamin Dupont | Production: Jean-Baptiste Germain, Bootstrap Label, Mathieu Robinet, Tandem | Colour | DCP | 71 min | french OV with english SUB | Totem Films
Chantal Birman was not just a feminist activist from the very start; she is still a dedicated care worker today. Now nearly 70, the extraordinarily empathetic midwife visits mothers of various social backgrounds day and night, tending to their equally varied post-natal needs and emotions. When pigeon droppings get stick under the wheels of the heavy silver suitcase that she manoeuvres across courtyards and up steep stairways, she occasionally runs out of patience: she then takes time to register a complaint with the building management about the inacceptable hygiene conditions.
She herself once had a painful experience with an unwanted pregnancy: after asking a young doctor for an abortion during her working hours, she had to clean up her own pool of blood in order to help another woman with her birth. Today, she says she would defend women’s right to an abortion with her life. She spares no advice in her conversations with a midwife in training who accompanies her to her daily work. A generational conflict arises between the women, but Chantal does not stubbornly insist on her point of view. She emphasises that she still learns from exchanging ideas.
This observational documentary by Aude Pépin is not merely a portrait of an impressive fighter; it provides deep insight and a sharp analysis of an aspect of human existence – birth – that has been handed over to modern medicine, with its current tendency towards regulation and rationalisation. Birman’s care work is dedicated to the women who are confronted with fear, physical pain, psychological stress and their private situations. In their isolation, they can all count on her.
Followed by a conversation with the director Aude Pépin and the medical historian Barbara Duden