One night during last year's Tribeca, I was hanging out at the AMC Kips Bay supervising my staff and doing some introductions of films. I was scheduled to intro one documentary which coming into the festival was one of my favorites. I had met the filmmaker briefly at our office one day, but not the film's famous producer. Suddenly, this familiar looking woman comes walking down the hallway in some ridiculously high heels. I did a double-take thinking, "Wow? Who's that! She's hot!" Then I did a second double-take (quadruple take overall?) when another one of my internal voices thought about the film I was about to introduce, bitchslapped my brain and said, "Moron. That's Ricki Lake."
I had actually just seen Lake's picture on the cover of US for a story all about her weight-loss, but she looked even better in person, and I was shocked. I was even more shocked because only about a month before, I had seen Lake very pregnant and very naked giving birth in her home in the film The Business of Being Born.
Abby Epstein's fantastic documentary opened at the IFC Center last week, and if you have yet to see it, you really should go. Guys too! For one thing, the film received a rousing endorsement from its sold out audiences at Tribeca, finishing in the top 5 for the Audience Award. But more importantly, and as I said in each of my two or three introductions for the film, The Business of Being Born is a movie for everyone. In fact, the people on the programming team who wound up being most enthusiastic about it were two men (including myself). Epstein does a tremendous job of not just exposing some major troubling issues regarding the modern birth industry in America, but also in providing -- especially for men -- an in-depth and up-close (sometimes maybe too close?) look at the process, beyond the phony hospital scenes in movies or Lamaze instructional videos, including the vital part that a prospective father can and should play, beyond holding the camcorder.
What's truly impressive about Epstein's film, however, is its balanced while still critical and opinionated perspective. Without giving away the film's narrative -- which relates too Epstein's own pregnancy during the making of the film -- The Business of Being Born expertly describes why there is not only a place for both at home and hospital births, but why the latter is often, in fact, necessary, and how any trained midwife would be the first to tell a woman in labor, "Let's get to the hospital" when such a situation would be necessary. Epstein, Lake and the women (and men) who expose themselves (literally) in this film all deserve applause. But as I discover repeatedly and too often as I watch doc-after-doc submitted to the festival, plenty of filmmakers have their hearts and arguments in their right place; that doesn't make their films compelling or good. Epstein has managed to do what all great and important documentaries do, though: great subject, well made. I urge you to check it out.