Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake appear in THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN, directed by Abby Epstein for Red Envelope Entertainment.

The Business of Being Born (2008, Abby Epstein)

Watching The Business of Being Born, one has to wonder about the structure. It starts as an investigation into the way hospitals deliver babies in the United States (the responsibility is not entirely with the hospital, of course; the film opens discussing Manhattan mothers scheduling their cesarean sections). But the narrative changes course once director Epstein discovers she’s pregnant.

This development comes about halfway through the film, which ends soon after Epstein delivers. Given she’s not the subject of the documentary, it’s surprising how much of her private moments she includes. One’s never seen Michael Moore with his shirt off (I hope). But in the final few scenes, Epstein talks about working on the film and it suggests it may have gone somewhere quite different if she weren’t, you know, taking care of a baby.

So there are two films here. One is an inspiring, enthusiastic look at the connection between mother and child. It’s beautiful. Great music from Jason Moss and Andre Pluess–just a lovely experience.

But the film Epstein doesn’t finish is a lot more… useful. The startling rate of cesarean sections in the United States is something even the OB/GYNs interviewed for the film are mortified over. These same OB/GYNs dismiss the idea of midwifery and home births, which are statistically (taking the cesarean into account) safer.

The film is definitely worth seeing (even with an awkward, disconnected epilogue).

One has to wonder, however, if executive producer Ricki Lake affected her quirky hat obsession.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Abby Epstein; director of photography, Paulo Netto; edited by Madeleine Gavin; music by Jason Moss and Andre Pluess; produced by Epstein, Netto and Amy Slotnick; released by Red Envelope Entertainment.

Featuring Abby Epstein (Filmmaker), Paulo Netto (Abby’s Boyfriend and Filmmaker), Tina Cassidy (Journalist and Author of Birth), Robbie Davis-Floyd (Medical Anthropologist), Ina May Gaskin (Midwife), Nadine Goodman (Public Health Specialist), La Juana Huebner (Parent), Gregor Huebner (Parent), Cara Muhlhahn (Certified Nurse Midwife), Michel Odent (OB/GYN and Researcher), Mayra Vazquez (Parent), David Radzinski (Parent), Catherine Tanksley (Midwife), Julia Barnett Tracy (Parent), Van Tracy (Parent) and Ricki Lake (Actress and Producer).

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