Trapped (Dir. Dawn Porter, 2016)
Director: Dawn Porter
Initial Release Date: January 24
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 81 minutes
Trapped narrowly presents the legal battle over a woman’s right to choice what they want to do with their body, whether that is to get an abortion or not. This is not a two sided story with commentary from both pro-lifers and pro-choice people. Trapped is direct in its powerful and informative documentary about why women’s health care is under attack from politicians; the analysis of the system that often traps women’s health care facilities to shut down is casual. The portrayal of both observational and participatory modes of film illustrates how doctors, patients, and staff of these clinics are innocent victims to the consequences of politics and the government that are “letting politics trump medicine”.
The documentary is indeed necessary to show that reproductive rights are a person’s decision and not the governments, but this film does not answer a question. It merely presents an answer. This is useless because Trapped will not change a pro-lifers mind about abortion; although it is persuasive for pro-choicers to continue the fight for women’s rights. The film is telling the story of the doctors and owners of women’s clinics in the south; a region that is toughest on abortion laws because of the amount of religious politicians and citizens. A reason why the documentary focused on the doctors and staff is to get the audience to understand that abortion is a human right and is, despite its reputation, safe; the CDC puts “a first trimester abortion as safer than a penicillin shot”.
At the beginning, there is a woman talking about her experience with trying to get an abortion in a state with strict policies. The footage is in a dark setting where the audience can barely see her face. This adds to the real dramatic effect that this woman probably did not want pro-life protesters finding out who she is and where she lives and thus harassing her. Throughout the middle duration, Porter interviews women who are getting an abortion and only shows their bodies from the neck down, usually the women’s fidgeting fingers. At the end, the director interviews a woman who is getting an abortion, actually showing her face in the light. This is to almost exclaim that “the darkest nights bring the brightest tomorrow”; the transition from the beginning to the end is saying that women should not be shamed or harassed for having abortions. It is their right to decide.
Trapped contains footage from past protests with signs such as “women power”. On the other hand, there is footage of politicians and citizens expressing their belief that abortion is wrong. The documentary shows a few politicians in the south who run on anti-abortion platforms as the central component of their argument. Anti-abortion protesters are seen on the lawns of several clinics yelling and harassing the doctors. So the film is clear in its persuasion that pro-choice is the right choice.
Yet despite this being a serious film, there are comical moments such as June Ayers setting the sprinklers on protesters to get them to leave the premises. The shots in Trapped are repetitive and straightforward, especially with the transition between the clinics in the different states; there is always a shot of a state’s map. There is cuts to direct action sometimes with instrumental music playing in the background. It is not an artistic documentary but is nonetheless important in explaining reproduction rights.
I suggest this documentary for the educational purposes of already pro-choice individuals. I would not recommend someone showing their pro-life friend or family member this particular film if their intention is to change their friends mind. It is not as emotional or thought provoking as one would need to fully and engagingly realize abortion is a right.
Information about the film:
Information about the restrictive laws discussed in the film: