Natalie Berger’s ’20 and Sam Brodsky’s ’21 documentary Closure has been accepted into the national Trinity Film Festival. Berger and Brodsky produced the film as part of Professor Martha Gregory’s documentary filmmaking course, The Documentary (FILM 267), this past fall. It documents the aftermath of the closure of two Planned Parenthood clinics around Springdale, Cincinnati. Recently, the documentary was accepted into the Trinity Film Festival, which has been celebrating undergraduate short films from all over the world for eight years. According to the festival’s website, awards for winning short films include a premiere on a big screen, connections to industry professionals, and cash prizes.
The two students had been brainstorming ideas for a project for their documentary filmmaking class, when one morning in late September they stumbled upon a deeply relevant and urgent article.
“[The article was] about two Planned Parenthood clinics closing in Cincinnati because of a lack of government funding. It was so disquieting and helpless to read this news about reproductive rights being jeopardized so close to where we live,” Berger explained in an email to the Collegian. “The clinics were scheduled to close the Friday that we read the article, so with encouragement from Martha and permission from the individuals working at the clinics, we drove that week to Cincinnati to capture the process of packing up the clinics.”
As the documentary explains, in August of 2019 Planned Parenthood withdrew from Title IX funding following the statute’s new ‘gag rule,’ which “prohibits doctors from providing or referring patients for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency.” As a result, the nonprofit is forgoing about 60 million dollars in federal funding.
The nine-minute film opens with a haunting shot of the shuttered Planned Parenthood clinic in Springdale, Ohio. Viewers are then given a tour of the defunct clinic’s empty walls and quiet hallways. Interviews with the clinic’s former staff provide an intimate view into how the clinic served the Cincinnati community and became an important resource for many individuals as well as the staff themselves. Crystal Wilmhoff, assistant medical director of the Springdale clinic, recalls in an interview that the clinic’s closing “feels like a death, honestly…[like] you’ve lost a huge piece of your family.”
Describing the filming process, Berger commented, “We were incredibly grateful by how open the individuals in charge of packing up the clinic were in allowing us to film the space during such a sensitive moment. The most difficult part of the day was watching people come to the door expecting to receive care, and then leaving after reading a sign that announced the closure.”
The emotional impact community members felt from the clinic closing can be seen throughout the film, which includes clips of rallies in support of Planned Parenthood, expressing outrage and heartbreak over the two Cincinnati clinics closing. Additionally, Wilmhoff recounts a story of one patient who walked for over an hour and a half to get to her appointments. She was undocumented and homeless, so the clinic was one of her only options when it came to pregnancy care. When the clinic workers found out about this patient’s struggle, they gathered resources like money and water bottles and paid for an Uber to get her back to where she was staying. Retelling this story in one of the film’s interviews, Licensed Practical Nurse Chenea Patterson said, “We’re not just your caregivers, I’m your friend.”
The filmmaking process for Berger and Brodsky involved four months of ironing out the documentary’s plot’s details, then producing, shooting and editing, as well as six-hour round trips to Cincinnati every other weekend. After it was finished, Professor Martha Gregory encouraged the students to submit their work to film festivals.
“We went ahead and submitted the film to 10 or so festivals. Given the importance and relevance of the subject we were hoping the documentary would land well with judges—and we’re glad it did,” Berger wrote.
There was a virtual screening via Trinity Film Festival’s website this past Saturday, where viewers and judges were able to see Closure, as well as the other student films that were accepted into the festival. This screening will close May 5 when the judges will announce the first, second and third place winners as well as honorable mentions.
Closure seeks to give voice to those that depend on resources like Planned Parenthood, stressing the importance of the nonprofit in doing so. As Berger and Brodsky emphasized in their message to the Collegian, “It offers a platform for voices that are often muffled to be heard. We care about the future of Planned Parenthood, especially in areas like Ohio where reproductive rights are already at risk, and where media coverage on these issues is not high.”