Director: Dawn Porter Running Time: 81 minutes
The theme of the 2017 Dublin Feminist Film Festival is ‘FeministFutures’, films that ask questions about future generations of women, not just related to science and technology, but also on the challenges facing women moving forward and subjects worth considering as things change for women in Ireland and elsewhere. The 2016 documentary Trapped makes for an excellent choice for an opener to the festival in this regard, depicting an urgent reality for women in the United States that has only continued in importance in the face of the considerable political changes in that country since the film’s release. For viewers in Ireland, the film makes for vital viewing as well, delivering the important message that no matter what happens next year with regards to repealing the 8th Amendment, the job of fighting for reproductive rights for women won’t be finished. Those who look to control and restrict the bodily rights of women will not go away.
Directed by Dawn Porter, Trapped reveals the harrowing restrictions placed on reproductive health clinics, focused particularly on southern states like Texas and Alabama. Curtailed by laws that are aimed not in fact to regulate but to corner these clinics (The laws are Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, i.e. TRAP laws), the fight to stay open is constant, expensive and exhausting. Since 2010, 288 laws regulating abortion providers have been passed by state legislatures. In total, 44 states and the District of Columbia have measures subjecting abortion providers to legal restrictions not imposed on other medical professionals. Unable to comply with these far-reaching and medically unnecessary laws, clinics must take their fight to the courts.
Porter balances the broader facts of these laws, their context and political impact with an emotionally stirring focus on their real-life impact, both for the women in need of abortion and the health practioners looking to provide them. Its informative but no lecture, provoking a wide range of emotional responses as it goes through the day to day working lives of those running and working at clinics in Alabama, Texas and Mississipi. Laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the regulations they are forced to meet turns to anger and at times, to deep sadness. Porter shows just enough of the people in the trenches of this fight to provoke empathy without over-stepping into human-interest cloyingess. They face the situation hopefully, but realistically and their hard work and sacrifices are given a suitable spotlight. The film is structured to end on a high note, but in an honest, open-ended way, a great example of a documentary with a strong moral perspective that avoids tunnel vision and manages in a runtime just under 90 minutes to simply illustrate the racial and economical elements of the issue in these states. Illuminating, infuriating and deeply relevant, Trapped is a must-watch documentary for Irish viewers as our own abortion issue looms.(4 / 5)