The female-driven cast shines a stark light on how pregnant people are impacted by the laws governing Ireland.
Women are at the front and centre in this piece. Based on real-life testimonies, Repeal highlights the stories of three different women – Samiya, Emily, and Renee. Written and directed by Karl Callan, and featuring performances by Rebecca Thompson, Maria Fiorentini, Maureen O’Connell and Aidan O’Sullivan, the film was inspired by cases such as Savita Halappanavar and Miss Y. [CW – some graphic scenes]
While each stories plays out in its own way. It’s the smaller reactions, particularly in the face of Nurse Cara, played by Maureen O’Connell, that ground the film. While the male doctors talk logistics, she is the one faced with telling the family. She is angered by the decision to allow the situation to continue, but attempts to protect her patient are futile.
Unlike other film pieces on the issue, Repeal has chosen a no-holds barred approach. The film is not an easy watch. But the brutality is purposeful. Particularly in the stories of Emily and Renee there is nowhere to hide. In Emily’s story – the interaction between mother and daughter (played by Rebecca Thompson and Niamh Walsh respectively) touches on the stigma around the issue. The family can’t afford to travel, and Emily’s father isn’t informed. As her condition worsens, the audience is once again reminded that for these two women they have no option but to see it through. Getting medical attention is not an option. For Renee, despite the circumstance of her pregnancy, seeking medical help proved to be even more traumatising. When asked about the content of the film, the director felt that it needed to be rooted in truth.
I don’t feel it is too graphic, when I set out to make it i wanted to make something that was real and honest. The film I made is designed to show people the truth about what’s going on here in Ireland and to bring those who are undecided towards voting yes in the referendum. Other pro-choice films I’ve seen have been very strong in their message about women’s rights but to really reach out to those undecided they need to know and understand what the 8th amendment is causing to women here in Ireland. People need to know the truth before going to vote on May 25th.
It is in the violence of the film that people will find its sticking-point and its power. This piece is not meek. We don’t see the everyday quiet occurrences. Instead we are looking at the cases that we would never want to see happen again. The team behind it went to great pains to ensure that the film was reflective of what happens. And it should be reiterated that each of these stories, are based on testimonials. Karl and his team took pains to speak with those who have been impacted by the 8th, and medical professionals working under it.
I researched the stories, spoke with women I know that been through similar situations. I also spoke to medical professionals and learned of the difficulties they go through as a result of the restrictions put on them. I wanted to be sure that the film was as realistic as possible.
For some pro-choice movement, up until now, has been lacking the voices of men. With this short, Callan goes some way to rectify this gap. Some may be put off by the fact that a man has created the short, but Callan feels that men have an active part to play in the campaign.
The role of men in this referendum is not to stand behind women and cheer them on but to stand side by side with the women of Ireland and fight with them for equality.
Ultimately, it is likely that Repeal will resonate with many people. For those who have lived through similar situations their stories are being represented. Those well versed on the topic, will see words come to life. Hopefully those who are unsure, or anti-choice will be faced with a reality that they cannot shield their eyes from. As the short closes with the haunting poem “Voices” by Deirdre Wadding, the ultimate aim of the film is to ensure “no more women left to die”.
If you are interested in learning more about the 8th amendment, and how you can get involved you can find more information here. You can find out more about the Repeal film and the project as a whole here.