On June 24th, 2022, the horrific news came out that Roe v. Wade had been overturned by the federal government. This was a landmark decision made by the Supreme Court in 1973, which gave women the right to decide what they wanted to do with their bodies when it came to their reproductive choices. Bodily autonomy is a basic human right, and the government took that right away from us.

I had heard rumors that this was going to happen based on a leak from within the government. When it did happen, for me it felt like Trump had won all over again, and in a way, he did. It was Trump who put these court justices in place that overturned this law. A feeling of helplessness spread throughout the country for over half of the country’s population. Filmmaker Natasha Halevi was fired up about this with many other female filmmakers, and decided to express her rage through her art, and collaborate with other female directors in making a film. A month later, they shot 17 short segments all directed by female filmmakers for an anthology that came to be entitled, “Give Me An A”.

I had the opportunity to speak with Natasha, who led this project along with two of the actors from the films, Molly C. Quinn (“Plan C”), and Jennifer Holland (“DTF”). I also wanted to share some words from filmmaker Monica Moore-Suriyage, who directed “mediEVIL”. She was not able to participate in our interview, but I thought it was important for me to share her perspective as a woman of color because the overturning of this law is effecting the Black and Brown communities the most, as a result of the disparity in our economy within these communities. Moore-Suriyage said, “A lack of access to reproductive healthcare disproportionately affects Black women, impoverished women, and minorities of color. It’s like this across healthcare all around. And I’m here to make sure people hear that, and consider donating to organizations trying to tackle this disparity in particular, like New Voices for Reproductive Justice.”

Monica Moore-Suriyage, director of “mediEVIL” segment in “Give Me An A”

All of the segments are told through the lens of a genre, giving each filmmaker the freedom to really express their rage in different ways. The film is composed of segments through the lenses of horror, sci-fi, and dark comedy. I feel honored to elevate this project. The film is now going on a tour all over the country, and proceeds from each screening all go towards non-profit organizations in their local markets that support reproductive rights. The film will be available to watch on VOD starting tomorrow (June 29th, 2023). Learn more about the film by following it’s official Instagram page (@givemeanafilm).

Natasha Halevi

Natasha Halevi – Director of “The Cheerleaders Wraparound” and “Abigail”

Can you talk to me about how “Give Me An A” got started?

When “Roe v. Wade” was overturned on June 24th, 2022, I was shocked, I was horrified, I was angry, I was sad, and I felt used. I didn’t know what to do with all of that emotion. Friends of mine, other female filmmakers in group threads and on their social media platforms were saying things that were very specific to their experiences and emotions. One of the things that I started noticing was that people were expressing things slightly different, but it all came from the same emotional pain. What was happening was effecting so many people in different ways, even within my own community. And I recognized that this all expanded much further beyond the United States. I got that group of women together, my friends and filmmakers, and a week after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we started pre-production. A month later, we started filming. 

When I look back on it, I see how fast we started moving. In the moment, everything felt like we were moving through slow motion jello, and it felt like we couldn’t move fast enough, because everything felt so urgent, and it still is. It’s only gotten worse since then.

“Give Me An A”

Can you talk about “The Cheerleaders Wraparound?

In terms of the concept for the wraparound, it was very important to me to have a container for the films. It was important to me that it wasn’t a story, but showed the emotion and feeling, and it pointed to each segment.

I had come across some files for a previous project that sparked the idea for “Give Me An A.” I knew that cheerleaders have this really beautiful history in the United States of being created to support men and male athletics, and that over time, that had been reclaimed. Women had taken on cheerleading as their own form of athletics, and there are competitions amongst cheerleaders now. The short skirts that were meant to entice men, that’s been taken back for us. We can now decide what we want to be, and what we want to wear. A lot of the uniforms have changed over time as well to be more into the costumes and creativity.

And of course, men are now invited to be cheerleaders too. I like having that as a fabric of what we are going to present, and showing the cheerleaders at the beginning of the film in the locker room. We’re showing only their legs, but they’re not sexy. We’re watching them put on their skirts, and we’re watching them in their underwear, but it’s not meant to be sexy. They are girls, and they are young ladies, and they are women doing their own thing, which is kind of how we want to be treated a lot of the time.

But over the course of the film, they are pushed emotionally after they watch each segment until they come out the other side angry and courageous, and hopeful, and ready to take down the patriarchy. That’s what happens with people. You push them too far, and you think you are pushing them down, but actually, they are going to come out and grow up out of where they’ve been pushed down, and prove to be much stronger. And that is where we are right now, it’s sort of a warning. So watch out, here we come, you’ve pushed us too far, and we’re not going to let it happen. That’s what’s going on with the wraparound.

“Give Me An A”

What do you hope people see the most in this film?

I think what’s really important that you can see in this film is that there are many different emotions and reactions. There’s not a one-off answer to how people feel about this. Each creator who stepped up to share their thoughts has a very different point of view. But all of these points of view lead to the fact that women, or anyone with ovaries, anyone with a uterus, should be allowed to make their own decisions. Bodily autonomy is a basic human right, and right now, that means that all over the United States, there are many people who do not have access to a basic human right. That shouldn’t be happening in our country, and it shouldn’t be happening in any country. That’s really what’s going on here. The other big component that I’ve been seeing as we’ve been screening, depending on where we are, is that we also want to tell people we’re here, that there is a community, 

We screened this film in an area outside of Atlanta where people afterwards said, “Thank you, I didn’t know there were people that felt the same way that I felt, and I now feel like I’m supported.” Because their communities didn’t express that they should have rights to their own bodies, and have reproductive rights, the right to have safe and healthy abortions. That’s really an important piece too. By seeing us, we want to let them know that they are not alone, that there is a community of people who do care. We do want to speak up, and if you want to speak up, you can. Or if you just needed to know that someone else is speaking on your behalf, great. And for people who are on the fence, here are some feelings, you decide how you want to feel, but just understand that this is effecting real people in a real ways even if you are looking through horror, sci-fi, and dark comedy. 

Molly C. Quinn

Molly C. Quinn – Actor “Plan C” (directed by Megan Rosati)

What brought you to this project?

I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life than when I heard the news about Roe v. Wade being overturned. I just felt completely uncared for as a human. And I almost felt this collective pull towards this project because all of these people were feeling the same way. I knew, as a group, we were feeling this way. I’ve known both Tasha (Natasha Helevi), and Jennifer (Holland) for a long time, and I know both of them because of each other. They’ve always been a sounding board for me, and I really appreciate them both.

So when Tasha emailed me about being a part of this opportunity, I was already going to say ‘yes’ because of what this project was supporting. Instead of being helpless, this film was a way to turn our anger, our anxiety, our fears into art, not just for ourselves, but for everyone.

When I read “Plan C” it was great, and it was terrifying. My segment is basically an infomercial for the last available birth control alternative, which is physically painful. And you notice the presenter, who is me, going through that pain up to the point of an interrogation by the end of this infomercial. It really hit me with how exactly how I’d been feeling. I had to keep going through the motions, but I don’t agree with this, and now I can’t get out of it. Oh my god, am I not in charge of my own body, and life? And for me, the right to privacy is the most important thing. I want people when they see this to not be afraid of losing that. I want to scare the shit out of them, so we get out there, and we vote, and we do what we can for those who are voiceless. So I was in it from the beginning, and I also love my segment. That was my journey with it.

Can you talk about working with your director, Megan Rosati for “Plan C”?

A few weeks before shooting, I watched Gus Van Sant’s film “To Die For” and I was really touched by its performance from Nicole Kidman, and how presentable she looked and how unwell and unhinged she was in the film. When I got to the set and I just saw this white background that was eventually populated by pieces of furniture, I looked at Megan Rosati and said, “‘To Die For?”’ And she said, “yes,” and I said “great.” For some reason, saying that title, we just immediately got on the same page. And that was really cool, because that doesn’t always happen. I’ve worked with some directors for a really long time and at the end of it, there is not necessarily a synergy. And with Megan, perhaps it was because we knew that we were making this for a greater purpose, and we were under a time crunch that we just snapped into it, and immediately got on the same page, which doesn’t happen all of the time. That was really special. 

Jennifer Holland

Jennifer Holland – Actor “DTF” (directed by Bonnie Discepolo)

How did you come to this project?

So just a little bit of perspective, I was in the throes of planning a large wedding and I was about to get married at this time. I was in another state and I had a lot on my plate. It was difficult for me to get away during this time. But when I was asked to be a part of it, I knew if I could make it work with my schedule, I just needed to do it. 

The thing for me is that I’m not a political activist. I’m a passivicst in so many ways in my life. But in this case, I felt just as strongly as most women about this topic. My initial way of reacting is just to sit and wallow in my sorrows quietly, inside my own brain. So I’m so grateful for people like Natasha who go through something like this and they’re like, ‘I can’t be silent, I have to do something.’ Because then I can be a part of something, in the way that I can be as an actor.

What motivated me the most was that we could reach someone, just one person who is on the fence, and doesn’t really understand the gravity of the situation. That’s enough reason to do this project. The situation is dire and I can’t believe we are where we are in 2023. It’s scary. My mom has passed away now, but I think a lot about what my mom would think during this time, and how disappointed she would be in our world and where we are. I just feel so grateful that I got called upon to be a part of this thing. It does feel hopeful that there may be someone out there who watches this film or reads one of these interviews and then may start to question their beliefs on this subject.

Can you talk about making “DTF,” and working with filmmaker Bonnie Discepolo?

Bonnie is a close friend of mine. I was very honored that she asked me to a part of her segment. Bonnie is a great collaborator and I was very excited to work with her. One of the things that was so amazing was just to see the way that she was expressing her story through this project with humor and reaching out in a way. I don’t know if it was ironic, but I thought the contrast of the way she was presenting the information was really interesting. I was a little afraid about how this was going to fit into the overall project because it seemed pretty different from everything else. When I ended up seeing the end product, I was so proud of Bonnie and what she was able to accomplish in such a short period of time.

She did it with grace and always had a positive attitude. She was always someone who was a great leader, without letting the stress get to her. There were many pages of dialogue that she was trying to fit into a very short shoot, and she did it with such grace. I was just so proud to be a woman, and so proud to see her shine in that role. But I was really afraid to see how the project was going to fit into the whole scheme of things. This is what it is like to go through this terrifying thing that we’re going through. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry, and sometimes you are terrified. And sometimes you are angry. And I thought that was something I didn’t expect to feel, but I thought it was an interesting how this project reflected my feelings toward everything that I’ve been going through on the process of grieving. 

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