Women’s Film Series Draws Audiences to The Bronx Documentary Center

Outbursts from a captivated audience echoed through The Bronx Documentary Center during a film screening at the opening night Women’s Film Series in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx.

The movie was Jackson, a documentary about the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi and the pro-life opposition attempts to shut it down. The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film this past summer and then screened in New York at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival before it landed in the Bronx.

The Bronx Documentary Center is a non-profit gallery and exhibition space that award-winning photographer Mike Kamber opened five years ago. His mission is to spread social change through photography and film.

There are only two traditional movie theatres in the Bronx and both are megaplexes that screen Hollywood blockbusters. So when The Bronx Documentary Center, one of few alternative screening venues in the county, programmed three documentaries with director Q&As for the Women’s Film Series last month, the event was a significant one. Rarely do Bronx residents have an opportunity to see independent cinema and film festival favorites among public crowds at a local venue.

After the screening, photographer and filmmaker Maisie Crow described how she first discovered the story that would ultimately become a feature length documentary four years later. She had read a 2012 article in Jezebel, an online magazine focused on celebrities, sex, and feminism, about a state law threatening Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. Purely out of curiosity, she headed south.

After arriving in Jackson, Mississippi and successfully pitching the story to an online longform site, Atavist, Crow quickly realized a 7-minute assignment was insufficient. Competing journalists also covering the clinic in Jackson were quick to report and publish though. “News outlets would come for one day expecting to get a story, thinking they deserved to tell someone’s story,” Crow said after her screening. “But you have to spend the time to earn it.”

Crow stayed in Mississippi to follow the unfolding story between the abortion clinic, the protestors, and one 24-year-old single parent on welfare, with four children and pregnant with twins. Crow’s reporting led to the completion of a short film, The Last Clinic, in 2013, which was later nominated for an Emmy. She continued to travel to Jackson back-and-forth for four years to shoot the feature-length follow-up she titled Jackson. Today, Crow is still traveling to Mississippi to follow one subject’s story during the ongoing struggle for women’s reproductive health.

Presenting her film in a program of exclusively female films is gratifying for Crow. Until the industry begets equality, the dedicated support is welcomed. “That we have these ‘women in film’ series is the reality we’re in, and it’s just great to have groups who care about advancing women in documentary and journalism,” Crow said.

The Women’s Film Series continued at the Bronx Documentary Center with The Wolfpack by Crystal Moselle and A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers by Greta Gandbhir.

For more information on events and programs at the Bronx Documentary Center, visit http://bronxdoc.org/.