Award-winning documentary ‘Motherland’ premieres in NY Sept. 8

NEW YORK – Motherland, winner of Sundance Film Festival 2017 Special Jury Prize, premieres in New York on September 8 for theatrical release at the Cinema Village. It will also open on September 22 in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Monica Film Center.

The film was lauded by audiences and critics across the globe playing at notable festivals such as Sundance, Berlinale, Docville, Sheffield Doc Fest, The Sydney International Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival and is slated for fall festival screenings in Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich and several other cities.

A Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary, Motherland, takes viewers into the heart of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, the busiest maternity hospital in the Philippines.

The viewer becomes an unseen outsider dropped unobtrusively into the hospital’s stream of activity, passes through hallways, enters rooms, and listens in on conversations. At first, the surrounding people are strangers, but as the film continues, it becomes absorbingly intimate, rendering the women at the heart of the story increasingly familiar.

Three women – Lea, Aira and Lerman – emerge to share their stories with other mothers, their families, doctors and social workers. While each of them faces daunting odds at home, their optimism, honesty and humor suggest a strength that they will certainly have to summon in the years ahead.

“The story that unfolds in Motherland, while taking place in the Philippines, is universal,” said Diaz, a veteran documentarian, who began filming Motherland in the search of a story on reproductive justice back in 2011. Diaz found the story she was looking for, “a story about reproductive justice and maternal and women’s rights, unfolded within the hospital walls.”

Added Diaz: “The wondrous mystery of motherhood is apparent in every frame of the film, in the sweat and screams of a first-time mother in labor, in the peace of her newborn being placed at her swollen breast, the awkward laughter as she flounders to diaper her squirming baby. The joy in Fabella is no different from the joys experienced by mothers worldwide.”

The hospital averages 60 deliveries a day, and as much as 100 deliveries in a 24-hour period. In comparison, the busiest and largest maternity hospital in Europe, National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, averages 25 babies a day and the Winnie Palmer Hospital in Florida, averages 54 deliveries a day.

Fabella is the final safety net for very poor pregnant women, most of whom cannot afford either contraception or the $60 delivery fee.

“The images I saw at the hospital – the nurses who did their best to tame the noisy chaos of Emergency Room arrivals, the crowded corridors, the premature births and cramped recovery rooms with double occupancy of single beds — gripped me and wouldn’t let go,” said Diaz recalling her experience as she captured the daily rhythms of the hospital

“As in most immersive experiences, once the routine washes over you, the real story emerges. And the story I found was one of community and humor,” Diaz recalled.

Although the joy that mothers experience is the same worldwide, “because this takes place in the Philippines, this film invites audiences to witness analogous situations from the starkly different perspective of poor, densely populated, Catholic country,” Diaz said.

Motherland is produced by Ramona Diaz and Rey Cuerdo and executive-produced by Brillante Mendoza, Sally Jo Fifer, Justine Nagan, and Chris White. The film is being released by The Film Collaborative in partnership with CineDiaz and Kidlat Productions.

Motherland Statistics:

  • Philippine population as of September 18, 2016: 102,575,650. It is 1.37 percent of the world’s population (UN estimates) with a growth rate of 1.72 percent a year, around 2 million births per year
  • It is the 12th most populous country in the world
  • More than 86 percent of the country’s population is Catholic
  • As a point of comparison, the U.S.’ population is 325,000,000 (give or take) and the landmass of the Philippines is equivalent to that of the state of Arizona
  • The Jose Fabella Hospital averages 60 deliveries a day, and as much as 100 deliveries in a 24-hour period. As a point of comparison, the busiest and largest maternity hospital in Europe, National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, averages 25 babies a day and the Winnie Palmer Hospital in Florida, averages 54 deliveries a day
  • The Philippine teenage pregnancy rate is the highest among the regional list of Asian countries that have the greatest number of teenage pregnancies. One in
  • 10 young Filipino women — between 15 and 19 years of age — is already a mother
  • The factors that have affected teenage pregnancy rates include having multiple sex partners, low condom use, and social attitudes toward family planning which are heavily influenced by the Catholic Church

Ramona Diaz is an award-winning Asian-American filmmaker best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that combine a profound appreciation for cinematic aesthetics and potent storytelling. Her films, which include Spirits Rising, Imelda, The Learning, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey and Motherland, have demonstrated her ability to gain intimate access to the people she films—be they rock stars, first ladies, dissidents, teachers, or mothers—resulting in keenly observed moments and nuanced narratives that are unforgettable.

While her stories focus on the Filipino and Filipino-American experience, Ramona’s films transcend their specificity and are universal in spirit. Her films have been broadcast on POV and Independent Lens and have screened and won awards at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Silverdocs, IDFA, and many other top film festivals. She has received funding from ITVS, CAAM, Sundance Documentary Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Institute, Catapult Film Fund, and Chicken & Egg. Ramona has also served on numerous film festival juries and funding panels.

Recently she was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Ramona has been a film envoy for the American Film Showcase, a joint program of the U.S. Department of State and USC that brings American films to audiences worldwide. She has conducted master classes and production and post-production workshops all over the world, including in Iraq, Laos, Morocco, Qatar, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and throughout the United States.

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