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Sundance ’10 | Grady & Ewing’s Pro-Life/Choice Corner “12th & Delaware”

Sundance '10 | Grady & Ewing's Pro-Life/Choice Corner "12th & Delaware"

Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, following up on their Oscar-nominated 2006 doc “Jesus Camp” and the hugely popular lost boys doc “The Boys of Baraka,” with an investigation of American religious life. This time, they shift from the evangelical youth camp to a corner of a small town in Florida, one in which the nation’s battle over abortion rights is being waged in a very unusual way.

On an unassuming corner in Fort Pierce, Florida, it’s easy to miss the insidious war that’s raging. But on each side of 12th and Delaware, soldiers stand locked in a passionate battle. On one side of the street sits an abortion clinic. On the other, a pro-life outfit often mistaken for the clinic it seeks to shut down… As the pro-life volunteers paint a terrifying portrait of abortion to their clients, across the street, the staff members at the clinic fear for their doctors’ lives and fiercely protect the right of their clients to choose. Shot in the year when abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church, the film makes these fears palpable. Meanwhile, women in need become pawns in a vicious ideological war with no end in sight.” [Synopsis courtesy of Sundance Film Festival]

“12th & Delaware”
U.S. Documentary Competition
Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing
Executive Producer: Sheila Nevins
Associate Producers: Christina Gonzalez, Craig Atkinson
Cinematographer: Katherine Patterson
Editor: Enat Sidi
Music: David Darling
Supervising Producer: Sara Bernstein
80 min.

Grady and Ewing give a little backgound…

Heidi attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with the intention of working in the State Department but ended up discovering the Georgetown Film Society, and the die was cast. Rachel went to journalism school at NYU and worked briefly as a private investigator before wrangling a job at Gabriel Films in New York, where we met in 1998. We both share a deep curiosity and penchant for asking too many questions and found documentary filmmaking as the perfect career for our particular set of skills and interests.

Grady and Ewing on moving from “Jesus Camp” to their new project being patient and those roadblocks…

Our last feature documentary “Jesus Camp,” we met a woman who worked as an ultrasound technician in a “crisis pregnancy center,” a pro-life pregnancy clinic in Missouri that was directly next door to a Planned Parenthood – which was, it turned out, no coincidence. We learned that there are 4,000 such operations in the U.S. and that crisis pregnancy centers are ground zero for the pro-life movement – the preferred way to reach women who are considering abortion. Weary from “Jesus Camp” and loathe to embark on another film that focused on religion in any way, shape or form, we moved on. But, a year later, during a meeting with Sheila Nevins and Sara Bernstein (where we were pitching other stories) we somehow wound up on this subject, and they convinced us that THIS was the story we needed to tell, and committed to developing the project with us. This film would not have been made with out HBO’s support and boundless encouragement during what turned out to be a grueling process.

This film employs the use of cinema verite more than any of our past work. It is a true fly-on-the-wall experience and a window into a private and emotionally charged decision rarely captured. We did not seek to tell an overtly political story or feature the leaders of the national pro-life and pro-choice movement and all the rhetoric that comes along with each side. Instead we chose to stay in a single location – the corner of 12th & Delaware – and be patient. We went on the instinct that all the stories that reflect the current war between the pro-life and pro-choice movement could be told from the women walking through the doors of the pro-life center and the abortion clinic across the street – – and that turned out to be true.

Access was by far our greatest challenge. Finding a pregnancy center that would allow us to film inside was a daunting task, as they normally do not seek national attention, and in fact their success is linked to staying “under the radar.” On top of that, being the makers of “Jesus Camp” did not help us much with the centers run by Evangelicals. Some wanted editorial control (obviously, not an option) and others had restrictions we found unappealing. After hundreds of attempts, we were granted access to a center run mostly by Catholics, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Most people believe that the pro-life movement uses its resources and energy into pressing for more legal restrictions to eventually overturn Roe V. Wade. But the real action for pro-lifers is one-on-one contact with women that takes place day in and day out in thousands of unassuming pregnancy centers that sit quietly on corners like 12th & Delaware. We are excited to shine a light on this subject for Sundance audiences. This is a very dense and thought-provoking work that will disturb and anger some audiences, and perhaps mystify others. We hope the film fits with the Sundance tradition of embracing fiercely independent vision and not shying away from controversial subject matter.

Grady and Ewing talk…Dogme?!

It may sound strange to say, but sometimes we felt like we were making a Dogme film with all the restrictions inherent to this project. In terms of influences, we borrowed a little from “In Treatment,” with respect to how to approach an intense, one-on-one counseling session. We were also inspired in some way by Michael Haneke’s “Cache,” a film that builds a sense of mystery and suspense through a specific editing style.

And they talk about their future…in Detroit…

We are very excited about “Detroit Hustles Harder,” a new doc we are developing about the future of Detroit, and those warriors/optimists/hustlers that have decided to stay and try and turn the place around. Detroit is a wildly fascinating and surprisingly cinematic place and has turned into a metaphor for the so-called “American dream.” In some ways the current state of the city feels like a Hurricane Katrina struck – but there has been no storm. The virtual collapse of Detroit is a purely man-made disaster born both from American ingenuity and greed. In many ways, as Detroit goes, so goes the nation, and we are excited to be a part of this conversation.

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