Friday, October 2, 2009

Film Review: Laboring Under an Illusion

Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing
Filmmaker: Vicki Elson
50 minutes, $39.99 (any use except broadcast, so personal, public screening, classroom, etc.)
An order of 5 of more DVDs and they are $19.99 each

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Laboring under an Illusion is a treasure trove of discussion-provoking material. Filmmaker Vicki Elson is an anthropologist and childbirth educator who has created a striking documentary exploring media-generated myths about childbirth. As a childbirth educator, I often reference in my classes how our attitudes and expectations about birth are shaped by media messages—birth is an emergency, etc. This film eloquently and entertainingly provides 50 minutes of backup material for the idea!

The film blends media messages from comedy shows like Murphy Brown, Mad About You, and I Love Lucy, movie clips such as Juno, Coneheads, and Nine Months, along with “reality” based shows on Discovery Health with the inherently contrasting messages in clips of beautiful births from films like Birth as We Know It, The Business of Being Born, and Orgasmic Birth. It also contains brief voiceover narrations from “regular” women about birth. Occasionally, there is a scene with the filmmaker speaking directly to the viewer about concepts raised in the film. These scenes are less entertaining than the popular media clips and the friends with whom I watched the film wanted to fast-forward these segments—the media clips chosen so clearly speak for themselves that they don’t really need explanation, at least to the already birth-savvy viewer. Because of some strong language in the media clips, I caution parents are to preview the film before sharing it with children.

Laboring Under an Illusion is an entertaining and illuminating film for consumers as well as for birth educators, doulas, and midwives. I highly recommend it!

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