Ricki Lake, everyone's favorite (formerly) zaftig talk show host from the early/mid 90s, produced and is starring in a graphic new documentary about natural childbirth and midwifery called The Business of Being Born. It's opening in limited release this week, but back in May when Being Born debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, Salon interviewed Ricki about her experience giving birth on film, in which she called her cooch awesome, and the interviewer called the film "a magical mystery tour of bodily fluids, sliced uteri, gloppy infants and gaping vaginas." Ok then! Gory bits notwithstanding, most of the reviewers enjoyed the extremely informational and well-paced film, though some feared that director Abby Epstein was overly biased against medical intervention vis-a-vis childbirth. After the jump, the critics have some postpartum thoughts on Being Born.
There's also an obliviously upper-class, sanctimoniously yuppie-crunchy slant to the whole production. Still, Epstein and Lake have crafted an absorbing, thought-provoking inquiry into what modern birth has become and how to make it better.
Entertaining and at times chillingly informative.
The Business of Being Born" includes very little of the screaming, gnashing, clenching horror that is the hallmark of most TLC-style obstetri-drama or, for that matter, of the kind of hirsute birthing filmstrip some progressively educated middle schoolers are shown in sex ed. Instead, Lake and Epstein have made a movie about the pleasures and political importance of natural, midwife-assisted home birth.
Though at times Epstein relies on cheesy graphics and cartoons to convey her points, the filmed imagery is often surprisingly eye-opening, and viewers will be moved to tears at this rare chance to witness childbirth in a whole new light — the kind that isn't fluorescent.
Casting vanity to the wind, Epstein's subjects permit Paulo Netto's unimposing camera to witness the miracle of birth in a big-business-free environment, and the effect, like the production itself, is as poignant as it is potent.
The graphically documented home births are shown as supportive, quite painful yet infinitely rewarding. Any claim the docu may have to objectivity is limited not only by Lake being shown giving birth (the event which inspired her to help make the film), but also by Epstein herself becoming pregnant midway through the pic, unexpectedly providing the docu's most suspenseful moments.