‘Call Jane’ creators on reproductive rights: ‘Women need an agency’

By Stephanie Ornelas

We began this editorial series in early June 2022, reviewing films that premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival that examine and champion reproductive freedom. Event, The Janesand replica all tell of what can happen when women are not in control of their reproductive health choices. And while the SCOTUS memo leaked last May suggested the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Friday’s confirmation of this reality only amplifies our continued fight for women’s rights. The Sundance Institute will continue to support artists who use their creative freedom to defend women’s right to choose.

When Roe v. Wade was adopted in 1973, three of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of the case were conservatives appointed by Richard Nixon. This fact marked Sigourney Weaver as she prepared for her role in the 2022 Sundance Film Festival premiere. Call Joan, out in october.

Although the judges were conservative, “they understood that a woman’s right to decide for herself whether she wanted to have a child was fundamental to her dignity, freedom and health,” Weaver said during questioning. – responses to the film’s post-premiere at the Festival in January.

“It woke me up so much when I read this because it’s an issue that’s been politicized. This film shows that it’s all about women and in this case women saving people. other women from despair and danger. Having lived through that time, believe me, we don’t want to go back to that.

Call Jane tells the fictionalized story of Joy (Elizabeth Banks), a suburban housewife in 1968 who lives an ordinary life with her husband and daughter in Chicago. When her pregnancy results in a life-threatening heart condition, she must navigate an all-male medical facility that is unwilling to terminate her pregnancy in order to save her life. Her journey toward what seems like an impossible solution leads her to Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), an independent visionary fiercely committed to women’s health, and Gwen (Wunmi Mosaku), an activist who dreams of a day when all women will have access to abortion, regardless of their ability to pay.

Elizabeth Banks, Wunmi Mosaku, Sigourney Weaver and director Phyllis Nagy attend the Q&A at the virtual premiere of ‘Call Jane’ during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Photographer: Sundance

“I was struck by the need to tell this story about women – a story that gave women agency, a story that could do so with humor, a light touch and a certain urgency,” director Phyllis said. Nagy, as she drew attention to the other Festival films that revolve around the same subject.

“There are several films [at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival about reproductive rights] because it is an important subject. Films, journalism, cultural artifacts – we should all be in conversation with each other and we should be having an intergenerational conversation, an intersectional conversation. These things are extremely necessary for our cherished right to choose not to disappear altogether.

Banks was immediately attached to this project because of the seriousness of the subject. She saw it as an opportunity to raise awareness and discuss women’s rights.

“[The film] is urgent. I love working on historical things that have relevance in today’s world, and that obviously does. The Janes were agents of change in their day. I really felt this was an opportunity for us to shine a light on this activism and, more importantly, the camaraderie of the women involved. [This was an opportunity] to celebrate these women who have worked together to solve, evolve and help each other. I felt it was very personal for this character and through that, if we could develop empathy for this woman, we could really speak to the audience about larger issues.

Grace Edwards, who plays Joy’s daughter, did a lot of research on what it was like to be a 16-year-old in the ’60s as she prepared for this movie. “Teenagers were kept very isolated from what was going on in the world politically and regarding all the subjects discussed in the film. The kids weren’t really exposed to that stuff like we are now. Now we can talk about it. I would like my generation to watch this film and be aware of the history of these women and what they went through.

Aida Turturro appears in Call Jane by Phyllis Nagy.

There’s a lot of talk about reproductive rights right now — especially with recent news of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. For this reason, the group has shared the ways they hope this film will engage with the current conversation about abortion rights and reproductive health. It’s about putting the focus back on the woman.

“Making abortion illegal will not stop abortions from happening. What he’s going to do is make them dangerous,” says Mosaku. “If someone wants an abortion, they’re going to get it. So why take away their dignity and safety by making them illegal? It’s just going to get dangerous again. I just want people to know that and have empathy. Nobody wants to be in this situation. It is not easy. So give them grace and leave them alone.

Banks also hopes more men will join the conversation. “I think this movie is a joyful portrayal of women working together, but there are also some really supportive men in the movie. And I like that about the relationships we have in the movie and what that says about where we could go with this conversation.

But more importantly, the group collectively agreed that the fight for abortion is, was, and always has been about a woman’s right to choose. Weaver hopes this film will engage the younger generation and put the focus back on women.

“We just have to remind people that there’s a life at stake which is to walk, breathe and try to make the best decision possible,” Weaver says. “It is important to respect these choices. You may disagree with them personally, and that’s your choice.”

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