As the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. lies on the chopping block, New York’s Metrograph is hosting a film series exploring the topic and its role in American life. (Spoiler alert: Abortion has always been a thing in the States, even pre-Roe v. Wade.) Years in the making, but more prescient than ever, “It Happens to Us: Abortion in American Film” is running through May 21. Half of its ticket sales proceeds will be given to NARAL Pro-Choice America and other U.S. reproductive rights groups.
The “It Happens to Us” lineup includes Leslie Harris’ “Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.,” Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Gillian Robespierre’s “Obvious Child,” and the Amalie R. Rothschild documentary short from which the film series takes its name.
“As women’s bodily autonomy is being stripped away by American legislation, the right to a safe and legal abortion is once again a personal and political battleground. Oft considered a ‘taboo’ subject, abortion has in fact been portrayed in film for just about as long as the medium itself,” “It Happens to Us” curator Emma Myers stresses on the program’s web page. “Spanning the silent era to the present day, this series surveys depictions of unintended pregnancy in American narrative cinema, from Josef von Sternberg’s dark pre-Code drama ‘An American Tragedy’ (1931), to the iconic ’80s rom-com ‘Dirty Dancing,’ to Eliza Hittman’s indie hit ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ (2020). Whether fraught with or free of moral judgment, these stories reflect, and other times oppose, the prevailing politics and mores of their time.”
Myers continues, “In the wake of the Roe v. Wade news, this series is now more timely than anyone could have ever imagined. Looking at abortion stories on American screens over a 100-year period makes it clear that restricting safe and legal access to abortion does not prevent abortion, it only endangers women’s lives,” she says. “These films remind us of the myriad ways that the legal, medical, and political systems have failed women over the years; they also illustrate that women have always needed, wanted, sought, discussed, self-induced, and received abortions. Abortion is not taboo: it’s a basic human right.”
“It Happens to Us” features in-person screenings as well as On Demand offerings. Also among its titles are “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Citizen Ruth.” Head over to Metrograph’s website for more information.