Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Le Premier Cri (The First Cry)

I just discovered this fantastic French film Le Premier Cri that premieres tomorrow on Zari's birthday! It follows pregnant women all around the world, as they live, work, and give birth. You can download a trailer at the website. (For you non-French speakers, click on "La Bande Annonce," then on "Version Longue.") You can also click on different countries on the globe and read about the mothers profiled in the film.

The American woman featured in the film had an unassisted birth! And in Mexico, two friends have ocean births surrounded by dolphins, with the same midwife. I can't wait until this comes out on DVD!


  1. That looks like a VERY cool film. The website is neat too. And it gives me a fabulous idea for a class in an intro human geography course. Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. And it's a Disney film! Who would've thought?!

  3. Disney in France is a whole 'nuther animal. As you might have noticed from perusing the film's sit, they have no problem with total pregnant nudity. The same thing in the US would provoke shock and outrage. Cracks me up.

  4. Wow, I want to see this! Do you know when it is coming out on DVD? Is it coming out in theaters in France tomorrow? It looks wonderful!

  5. Yes, it comes out in French theaters tomorrow. Wish I were in France right now!!!!

  6. amazing!!
    i have chills and tears in my eyes. i hope this is available on dvd soon.

  7. rixa, I'm having problems getting to the English version...from the first page, I clicked on la bande annonce then chose the version longue - but it seems that I can't find an English version...not that it's important, but I wonder if I missed it?

  8. There isn't an English version, so you'll have to make do with the French one.

    No idea when it's coming out on DVD, but I will definitely be buying a copy!

  9. This looks gorgeous--and I knew enough francais to pick out each story on the website--really cool stuff!

    I didnt know Zari was a Halloween baby--Charlie turns 2 on November 1.

  10. Thanks, Rixa! I had forgotten this film was premiering this month. I was "consulted" for the film (did a few short email interviews) and also found them the woman whose birth they eventually filmed. I was told it would be shown in theaters around the world! The director, Gilles de Maistre, was supposedly very touched by UC and was adement about having one in his film. He has filmed over 100 births, but I believe this was his first UC. If I get anymore info about the film I'll post it here.

  11. Amazing! I downloaded the English version but the text was still French...that's okay, cuz the images were powerful enough on their own! I'd LOVE to see this when it comes on DVD here across the pond. :)

  12. Wow, Laura, that's great to hear about the director. I wondered if you'd been involved somehow!

  13. We got to read a few interviews with the director up here in Quebec. There was a long paper about the movie in 'Paris Match' where they featured each of the births.

    The movie also features the birth of a stillborn (breech) baby in the Kogo desert (Niger). In this article, the journalist is quote saying that it is shocking to see that this baby died due to lack of medical assistance while the American lady refuses any medical assistance...

    I liked De Maistre response. He said that when the UCer talks about the perspective of her baby's death, you think she is absolutely crazy... but then again, aren't life and death linked and don't we tend to forget that?

    UC is almost unheard of in France (let alone in 'Paris Match' LOL) where pregnancy and birth truly are overmedicalized. From this interview, the director seemed quite open-minded.


  14. This is interesting, Dea! Thanks! As far as the stillborn baby, it's too bad they're blaiming it on the fact that it was unassisted. A baby is stillborn in an American hospital every 15 to 20 minutes. Not all babies can be saved (although I'm not necessarily saying this was the case here). But people often use death in childbirth in third world countries as a reason why all births should be assisted. The truth is, most of the deaths are due to poverty. From a recent India Times article on death in childbirth: "Poverty, hunger and disease were the three main reasons why 99% of the deaths in 2005 occurred in developing countries."

  15. I totally agree with you Laura!

    For the Touaregs in Niger, birth and sexuality are taboo. This young mother was probably malnourished and did the Ramadan up to a few days before giving birth. From what I understand she also wasn't permitted to move freely during labor and had to lie down in silence in a tent that wasn't her 'home'.

    This has little to do with well nourrished, educated UCers that choose to 'freebirth'.

    I always find stillborn stories very moving though - no matter what causes it. For that woman in Niger, De maistre said in 'Paris Match' that it also meant that this woman wasn't considered a 'real' one - now at 25, divorced and without any child :(


  16. You're right, Dea. In many of these tribal cultures women are treated horribly, especially during menstration and birth. These tribes have their own form of birth "interventions" that are just as disasterous as those performed in hospitals. And as you said, their attitudes towards birth and sexuality are harmful in and of themselves. I heard from someone recently who had lived in Tibet. She felt that many of the problems in birth were caused by intense shame. Our bodies are responsive to our thoughts.

  17. Unfortunately it doesn't look like the director is a big fan of UC, although he's tolerant and did find beauty in the UC he witnessed:

    How do you view the willingness of some couples to give birth according to tradition or no medical assistance?

    I think we should learn from everyone and remain tolerant. This American woman who made the choice to give birth without any medical assistance wishes to renew this act of communion between mother and child.

    (Another interview)

    On the American couple ...
    In fact, it's fun because for the preview, this couple came to Paris with her baby (the little Vanek), which has a year and a half. And I watched as he was arriving at the world saw on the big screen and it was a beautiful moment. In the film, this birth is rich in teachings on birth at home and might call for women who have already given birth and who would have felt that they stole this time at the hospital. But it is also something that we can not to do that way. There is surely only 10 women in the world that can support it. This birth is a struggle.

    (Another translation)

    In fact, it is amusing since for the preview, this couple came to Paris with their baby (small Vanek) who has a year and half today. And I looked at it whereas it was seen arriving at the world on large screen and that was one very beautiful moment. In film, this birth is rich in lesson on the childbirth with the house and risk to challenge women who were already confined and who would have felt that one stole this moment to them to the hospital. But it is also something which one cannot advise to make in this manner. There are surely only 10 women in the world who can support that. This childbirth is a combat.

  18. Laura, where did you find the article? I could attempt a somewhat more clear translation!

  19. I found several interviews by googling "Gilles de Maistre interview". The ones I quoted from were on the first page of results.

  20. I am not finding that particular interview, although I've found others. I don't get the impression that he thinks negatively of UC--more that he's fascinated with it and that he thinks it is in part a commentary on the extreme medicalization of childbirth. If you find the article again, Laura, please send me the link.

  21. Here is an excerpt from one interview that summarizies his attitude toward the diversity of birth cultures:

    "Sans se vouloir didactique, le film invite le spectateur à se poser toute une série de questions sur l'évolution de notre planète. 'Le Premier Cri' ne donne pas de réponses mais propose simplement des pistes de réflexions que le spectateur est libre d'emprunter ou non. Il est libre de simplement rester dans l'histoire ou de s'interroger sur des questions autrement plus existentielles."

    "Without being too didactic, the film invites viewers to ask themselves a series of questions about the evolution of our world. 'The First Cry' does not provide answers but simply opens up certain threads of inquiry that viewers are free to explore or not. They are free to simply immerse themselves in story, or to explore more existential questions."

    I took liberties with the translation, of course. But this excerpt (and many others in his interviews) show that he's more interested in asking questions than in judging certain birthways as "good" or "bad."

  22. I agree, Rixa, that he’s not judgmental at all, and is genuinely interested in asking questions. I do think he’s fascinated by UC, but is also afraid that something could go wrong. I get the impression that he feels a non-interventive hospital birth is probably the best choice (but I could be wrong). See this page and quote below: http://studiomagazine.fr/film/autour_zoom.asp?id=26006&ida=188355

    The message of the film is a return to nature?
    "From the moment you arrive in the desert, we understand that what happens in nature is not always easy and idyllic. We discover that the hospital saves babies, even if it sometimes at the cost of some dehumanization. However, it is possible today to find at the hospital in a little more relaxed to do things, a desire to let women act a little freely in the way they give birth."

    Yet when asked about his best memory of the film he says: “It's hard to choose, whenever was really amazing because I spent a lot of time with each woman. If we were really pick one, I would say the baby was born in the United States with the Canadian mother, because it was really the first one that was finally realizing the project of Prime Cri.” So was it only his favorite because it was the first one they filmed? http://www.commeaucinema.com/interview=gilles-de-maistre-nous-raconte-notre-histoire-a-tous,95050.html

    The quote below (from someone who didn’t really like the film) seems to indicate that he’s supportive of UC, so I’m somewhat confused! In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing it someday.

    “The Prime cry is clearly the result of hard work (the idea of patience and adaptability it took to achieve capture these moments left stunned), but it seems that has de Maistre failed, in the end, to tame these images. By emphasizing a more "natural" childbirth (including a non-assisted birth), the Prime cry seems to want to be the standard-bearer of a new age of motherhood. It is certainly a matter of conviction or not to lend legitimacy to unassisted births, those with dolphins, and so on. But universalist poem, the Prime cry pours quickly in a proselytizing that does not say his name. This eventually burdening the treatment, already lame, the topic.” http://www.critikat.com/article1659.html

  23. It's really cool to read all of your comments on this film. The American birth couple is my brother/sister in law. (although she is French Canadian) We've been following the development of this movie since its inception, and are really hoping it will get released in the US as well, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Little Fanek is now 18 months and has been joined by a little sister born in July, also unassisted. They all travelled to Paris for the premier. I will enjoy continuing to read your comments, but thanks for the great dialogue on birth in general, if nothing else I hope that's what this movie does for people.

  24. Hi Chris and welcome!

    That's the impression I get from reading the director's comments about the film (and about the unassisted birth in particular). He said in one of the interviews that the point is not to judge the births, but to learn from them and to raise questions.

  25. Chris - I had heard that Vanessa went on to have another unassisted birth, and 25 people in her community attended! I'm sure she is opening many eyes. Could you ask her to contact me at laurashanley@comcast.net? I don't have her current contact info and the woman who originally interviewed us for the film (Sarah Chrétien) is no longer with the company. Thank you!

  26. Laura, I will absolutely give Vanessa your contact info. They are in Europe until Nov. 27th, and not sure when they will be back at home, but I'm pretty sure they are checking email periodically. We just heard from them yesterday, apparently the premiere went really well and they had a great time. My guess is Vanessa would LOVE to read and be a part of this blog when she has time, she just loves talking about birth. You are right Laura, they were surrounded by about 25 friends for both of their births, lots of love and support there!

    You all keep using the intials UC to refer to unassisted birth...what does the C stand for?

  27. UC = Unassisted Childbirth.

    It's one of those acronyms that doesn't make as much sense as, say, UB (unassisted birth) but it's the one that everyone uses.

  28. Salut!

    Vanessa, c'est moi. Can i join you girls for my own contribution to this metalinguistical extravaganza (a comment on the comment of the comment)? Eh! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak for myself. That ability has become scarce of late, with critiques going full blast since the release of the movie.

    Even being referred to as "the American lady" has something soothing about it, despite the fact that i am not much of a lady and that I am Québécoise (j'y tiens!). Last time I checked on the web, I was an irresponsible lunatic for giving birth the way I did. So you can understand how reading conversation has been like finding back soul sisters.

    It seems like the movie is creating a raging debate here at times, particularly around that priviledged choice of mine to go without medical care, when poor womyn around the world are in dire need for it (or it is the way things are framed). The "Elle magazine" was very disappointing on that note I believe.

    On a practical note, the producer of the film told me that costumarily, when a movie comes out in France, it will be released 8 months to 1 year in the States. It will probably take much longer before it's available in DVD. My bet is that they will try to make as much money with it as they can before it goes on DVD (hey! it IS Disney, after all :-) It is also possible that the English version (to my point of view) will be more interesting than that of the French, if they choose to have subtitles. In the French version, they opted for having voice-over for each womyn, simplifying and altering their own voices.

    This is my first experience on commenting on a blog, so I don't want to be too long, but I welcome questions...

    I am also envious of your ability to write on these blogs. I have been wanting to send a note since Chris told me about it, but I just couldn't find an opportunity between Fanek (18 months) and my little daughter Manis (3 months): franckly, I'm driving nuts between the 2 of them.

    Bons baisers de France!


  29. Hi Vanessa et bienvenue!

    Sorry about calling you "the American woman." I didn't know you were Quebecoise when I wrote the post! My husband is Canadian (hence the Canadian flag cloth diapers!) and actively looking for a job back in his home country.

    If you ever want to share your own perspective on your births--why you chose UC, what the experiences were like, etc--I would be more than happy to post it on this blog. I don't know if you've had time to read through the archives, but I gave birth unassisted a year ago to my first baby.

  30. Vanessa - I'm so glad you joined the conversation! Congratulations on your wonderful births! I'm sorry that you're being attacked for your choices, but of course I'm not surprised. I hadn't heard that your birth was discussed in Elle magazine. I suspect there will be more discussion about it as more people see the film.

    I actually have lots of questions for you. Can you write to me directly at laurashanley@comcast.net? One thing I'm confused about is the timing of the births in the film. From what I've read it sounds like they all took place within a 48 hour period surrounding the eclipse. Yet Gilles de Maistre could have only been at one birth, right? Did he film yours himself? Were you bothered at all by the presence of a crew? I'd love to do a more detailed interview with you that I could send out to the unassisted birth lists. Anyway, so glad you're here!

  31. Salut tout le monde !
    My husband and I have just seen the movie here in France. Boy! That was so intense and deep. I couldn't help crying most of the time.
    Each story, each woman, each family is unique and wonderful. It's like sharing a bit of there life...
    We keep talking about this movie at home and our two elder daughters (7 and 5 years old) want to see it too. I'll definitely let them watch when it comes out on DVD.

  32. This movie looks amazing. I'm anxious to see it if it becomes available in the US. I have posted my UBAC on Youtube and my blog and have gotten only two negative comments, one of those actually on my family size and not the birth.

    Anyone know where I can get that Sinead O'Connor song that's playing? Is there an album I can buy? Can I download it somewhere?

  33. According to French amazon.com, this movie (which looks amazing) will be coming out on DVD in April:

    Le premier cri
    DVD ~ Maistre Gilles De
    Aucun commentaire client existant. Soyez le premier.
    Prix : EUR 19,99 Livraison gratuite à partir de EUR 20 d'achats.

    Cet article paraîtra le 30 avril 2008. Commandez-le dès aujourd'hui ! Expédié et vendu par Amazon.fr. Emballage cadeau disponible.

  34. Thanks Darius. I wonder how much longer the North American release will take. I have a multi-region DVD player, but they're not that common.

  35. I just bought the Premier Cri at my local supermarket, I am in France though.
    I`m really looking forward to watching tonight! It is being viewed as a breath of fresh air here. It was shown at my local cinema followed by a discussion session involving our local home birth advocate midwife and members of the Ob/Gyn team. Very interesting.

  36. First of all, congrats for the beautiful family.
    Le premier cri est uncreable !
    Amazing images and soundtrack. I was very touched by it.
    (sorry for my terrible english)
    Rudy Zimmer

  37. So am I right in understanding that this film is not yet available for screening here? When one of you said April did that mean out on DVD in France only? Please contact me directly with information; I would LOVE to screen this movie for our second annual film fundraiser for Florida Friends of Midwives. Thank you!

  38. It looks like it might have already come out on DVD in France, but unless you have a multi-region DVD player it wouldn't work over here. I don't know anything else about when/if this film will be released in North America.

  39. Wanted to point out this film:


    and this upcoming film for new fathers:


  40. I just found the DVD on amazon.fr but as I don't speak French I'm just wondering if it would have subtitles... Multi-region DVD no problem- I'm in Ireland

  41. Hello all,

    I am a gentle birth activist in the Ottawa area (Canada). I was on the planning committee for the recent International Breech Birth conference here. (www.breechbirth.ca) We are continuing to fundraise to cover the costs from this conference and would like to screen "Le Premier Cri" as a fundraiser. Does anyone have Canadian contact information?

    Thanks, Wendy

  42. Hello all, I live in the States and recently purchased Le Premier Cri through Amazon Fr. It surpassed all my expectations and is THE most beautiful birth film in existence in my opinion. I had to turn my DVD player into a region-free player, but that was a simple process through the DVD remote. We're hoping to screen Le Premier Cri this April at our Reproductive Wellness Symposium. If anyone has any suggestions about how to get a license or permission, I'd love to hear about it! Blessings to all, Alli

  43. Hello Alli!

    I think that it has been a huge dissapointment that the movie was not released in North America. As far as showing it in small settings like conferences, I think you don't need necessarily special permission. Last time I asked Gilles (the filmmaker) about needing permission, he said that all he wanted was for the movie to be seen. Unless you plan on starting to make money out of it, I don't think there is any problem to use it. I, for one, have! It really is an amazing movie and i have found, a fabulous pedagogical tool (it is amazing all the conversations) that can be have from that movie. Last time that I was invited on a panel, the audience was from the perinatal world (doula, midwife, nurses) AND immigrant womyn and it was just so incredible the different perspectives. Of course, there are as many ways of seeing the film as there are of people.
    In short, you got it, use it!
    Best wishes from Maine,
    Vanessa, Mike, Fanek & Manis.

  44. I showed this film in a second year geography class (World Regional Development) a couple weeks ago in summer session. It was very well- received by a diverse group of students: engineering, business, education, arts & sci, nursing . . . I expected a few people to be freaked out by all the out-of-hospital births but the general reaction was that birth SHOULD be like the out-of-hospital ones and we need to do more to make it like that for Europeans and North Americans. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the male students did the bulk of the talking--they were genuinely interested. Lots of questions about birth and culture. We had an hour of organic discussion and ran out of time. One student (male, engineer) stayed after class and talked for another half-hour.


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