exclusive: watch a new short film documenting the fight for abortion rights in ireland

'My Body, My Choice' aims to give visual representation to the suffocating imprisonment of women’s bodies under Ireland’s constitutional restriction of their reproductive rights.

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Apr 18 2017, 3:40pm

The women of Ireland are currently engaged in a battle with the state for their bodily autonomy. In the last few years, they have mobilized with almost military precision against Ireland's abortion ban and the country's seemingly apathetic politicians. Their goal is to force the government to table a referendum which will allow the eighth amendment, which prohibits abortion, to be repealed. They have been marching in ever-increasing numbers at the annual March for Choice. Last month, women even implemented a nationwide withdrawal of labor in a demonstration known as #Strike4Repeal, which brought Dublin city center to a standstill.

Anna Cosgrave is one of the generals leading this charge. She founded the REPEAL project and designed a graphic black and white REPEAL sweater. It's since been adopted as the emblem of a generation of newly politicized, artistic, Irish youth.

This week, her REPEAL project releases My Body, My Choice exclusively through i-D. It is a short film which aims to give visual representation to the suffocating imprisonment of women's bodies under Ireland's constitutional restriction of their reproductive rights.

The film marks the directorial debut of Irish model-turned-director Laragh McCann. The 26-year-old once graced the catwalks of New York, Paris, and Milan for the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Moschino, and Prada. Now she is carving out a career for herself on the other side of the camera.

"Fashion life has been my education," she explains. McCann has been modeling since she was 14, and learned how to shoot through her experience on sets. She taught herself to edit, having rejected an offer of a coveted place in Central Saint Martins. Since then, she has shot a global publicity campaign for Kodaline, as well as worked on shoots for i-D and various magazines in Ireland.

The decision to apply her skills to the Repeal movement came after a conversation with Anna about her sweaters last spring. McCann hopes the piece represents "the passion of the human underneath the [sweater]."

"I hope that the piece — as well as encouraging sisterhood and solidarity as we endure hardships together — also encourages a bridge of understanding from people who are very clear about being pro choice, to those who are in a grey area. I aimed to make an inclusive piece, not vilifying people who are not yet pro-choice, but reaching out to them," she explains. 

"Before any rehearsals started, I made sure to sit down with each of the girls. We chatted about the eighth amendment and what it meant. I interviewed several girls for an hour each and then transcribed their words. These transcripts were edited down to become the script. I think a subject matter like this deserves that sort of time."

The film depicts Irish women dancing breathlessly on Dollymount Strand, Bull Island in Dublin Bay. It's an iconic part of Ireland's eastern shoreline clearly identified by the red and white towers of Poolbeg Power station. The backdrop is significant. These women are dancing desperately in an attempt to generate a power that cannot be harnessed through electrical cables — the power to control their own reproductive destinies.

As they fling their limbs in a wild attempt to grasp this potential, they alternately face outwards — toward the UK across the Channel — and inwards to our own motherland. This nod condemns the way that Ireland has outsourced "the abortion problem" to its closest neighbor, Britain. For decades, women have been relegated to the lower decks of the ferries and the back rows of Ryanair flights, forced to flee the country in order to access abortions. As the film reminds us, "Between January 1980 and December 2015, at least 166,951 women and girls traveled from the Republic of Ireland to access abortion services in another country." This demand has grown to such an extent that some UK abortion services have declared they will no longer accept Irish women — soon, there will be nowhere left to turn.

The dancers reject this limitation of their options, rebelling against restriction. The film aims to imbue Irish women with motion and freedom. Wind whips through their flowing hair and billows through the folds of the loose fabrics they have donned, as they swivel, stomp, and handstand on the sand. Their limbs defy all barriers, claiming the space around them hungrily, demanding the autonomy they have for so long been denied.

The women stand back-to-back in protective formation, link hands, and move in unison, echoing a military exercise. Women are rallying, the film tells us. The evidence of this lies not only in the March for Choice and in the Strike for Repeal, but in the countless other artists like Laragh and Anna who have joined forces to send a message. Last year, another group of Irish artists danced to express the fight for reproductive freedom in the public art commission Embodied. Many artists have also contributed to several pro-choice exhibitions that have been held in the last year, including Someone You Love - An Exhibition of Pro-Choice Art in Aid of Abortion Support Network (organized by Aifric Ní Chríodáin and Gary Grimes), and The Rope Around All Of Our Necks, organized by Dearbhla Ryan.

From fashion to film and choreography, the women of Ireland are using all artistic resources at their disposal in the fight for Repeal.

Laragh has more work coming soon, including the short film 'Day,' which she wrote, directed, produced, and acted in. It is a voyeuristic look at a day in the life of a Dublin girl dealing with an eating disorder.
laraghmccann.com

Credits


Text Brian O'Flynn
Director Laragh McCann
This film was a collaborative effort of a group of young Irish artists Including Keelin Coyle of workgroup.studio
Producers Gumbo Films
Agency Not Another Agency