FNE at Berlinale 2022: Competition: Call Jane

    FNE at Berlinale 2022: Competition: Call Jane source: www.berlinale.de

    BERLIN: The anti-abortion feminist drama Call Jane directed by Phyllis Nagy has scored a spot in the Berlinale main competition. The film had its USA premiere at the Sunday Film Festival earlier this year. International festival goers will remember Phyllis Nagy as the scriptwriter of the drama Carol directed by Todd Haynes and based on the Patricia Highsmith novel.

    Set in the late 1960s when abortion was illegal across the USA before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Count decision gave women the right to decide to fate of their own pregnancies, the film is based on a true story of a network of Chicago-based activists that called themselves the Jane Collective. These women were dedicated to helping American women find a way to have safe abortions at a time when women all over the USA were dying from illegal abortions carried out under often horrific conditions. Often bleeding to death alone in hotel rooms after clumsy procedures without any aftercare.

    None of the characters in the film are actually called Jane. The scriptwriters Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi have based the story and characters on real-life characters of the 1960s collective. The dedicated activist feminist Virginia played by Sigourney Weaver, is based on the founder of the Jane Collective Heather Booth. Other characters include the Black Power activist Gwen played by Wunmi Mosaku, and a nun Sister Mike played by Aida Turturro, who while not actively involved in implementing abortions provides support to the recovering women.

    The story revolves around Joy, played by Elizabeth Banks, a traditional 1960s housewife, with a serious heart condition, who unexpectedly becomes pregnant again. Warned by her doctor that this pregnancy poses a serious threat to her life, she decides on abortion. But the all-male hospital board refuses her request for abortion due to the strict anti-abortion legislation in place. In desperation she turns to the Janes Collective. The Janes not only save Virginia’s life by enabling her to find professional help to carry out the abortion but they convert Virginia to their cause.

    Speaking at the press conference in Berlin Nagy said: “The producer sent me the script and what I noticed right away was that there were moments when one could have some relief, a light touch.  I saw this as a movie about women working together to solve a problem rather than a movie about abortion per se, but about issues that women had been dealing with for thousands of years. 

    For me the challenge was to make a film that was easy to watch but that had different layers that were there if you chose to see them, and to allow an audience to laugh almost throughout the film, although of course not at certain times, means that they are watching it with you.”

    Credits: Call Jane (USA)
    Director: Phyllis Nagy
    Screenplay: Hayley Schore, Roshan Sethi
    Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards, John Magaro