Directors Tonya Lewis Lee & Paula Eiselt Interview
When a woman dies from complications of childbirth, she leaves behind loved ones struggling to deal with the loss. Aftershock, a documentary from Disney’s Onyx Collective, brings attention to the U.S. maternal mortality crisis by focusing on the death of two women and the family members they left behind.
“Often people hear about an issue like maternal mortality and morbidity, and they just see numbers,” filmmaker Tonya Lewis Lee said during a panel at MovieSlay’s Contenders Film: Documentary awards-season event.
Lewis Lee co-directed and co-produced the film with Paula Eiselt. After deciding to make the documentary together, they looked for a way to humanize the story, with the aim to change the way we look at the issue.
“We both felt that it was important to tell this story through people’s lived experiences,” Lewis Lee said.
Aftershock centers on Shamony Gibson, 30, and Amber Rose Isaac, 26, two young women who died from complications of childbirth.
Gibson delivered a son via C-section. After expressing concerns about her deteriorating health to doctors, she was told not to worry and died within two weeks. Isaac died from complications of an emergency C-section.
Among developed countries, maternal deaths are particularly high in the U.S., and Eiselt noted that one contributing factor is a reliance on C-sections in this country.
“We have a really high C-section rate and that is incentivized by insurance companies who reimburse more for those C-sections, so doctors are not motivated to let women actually take the time to have natural births,” she said.
About 700 women die each year in the U.S, from complications of pregnancy or delivery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A disproportionate number of those women are Black.
“Women and especially Black women, more than anyone else are not seen and heard,” Eiselt said. “They’re not trusted. When they say that something is wrong, they’re dismissed and that just perpetuates a system of disempowerment within the system, and that’s why we have the rates we do.”
Check back Wednesday for the panel video.
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