In 24 hours, Lucia of the short film “Lucia, Before and After” can finally get an abortion. She’s driven hundreds of miles from Odessa to the closest abortion clinic in the state in El Paso to have the procedure, and now she has to wait another 24 hours after her sonogram. And there is nothing to do in El Paso.
But she comes across three young men in a parking lot tap dancing on a slab of wood. They’re excellent dancers, but she looks on bemused, because in that moment, they have far more freedom over their bodies than she does.
Anu Valia, who directed “Lucia, Before and After” and won a Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for her work, told TheWrap the scene demonstrates that each individual goes through personal hardship and frustration beyond just the politics of abortion.
“I want people to see the person behind an issue, the person who’s really going through something difficult,” Valia told TheWrap. “She’s not just a person getting an abortion; she’s a full fledged human being. You can’t show that in 12 minutes, but you can show the world that she’s inhabited, how she observes and interacts with the people around her.”
Valia’s observant film shows the agitation and frustration that comes not just from waiting but from seeing other women unburdened and able to just live their lives. In a bar Lucia watches a woman dancing all on her own without a care in the world. And while Lucia’s rushing around on an errand, Valia’s camera lingers on a school group posing for a photo. These are everyday trivialities, but when a woman has to go through something like an abortion, these little things weigh on you.
“It affects your relationships, how you go about your day, you’re mean to people. It goes on and on,” Valia said. “Women’s access to healthcare in this country has effects on your everyday life. Abortion specifically has been criticized in this weird way where you have a facade of how you feel about it, and you forget about the people who are dealing with this in an everyday situation.”
Valia doesn’t want to suggest “Lucia” represents anything more than one person’s experience. But those who have seen her film came away from it feeling like their own experience wasn’t so taboo, she said.
“I’m a firm believer that when people get abortions it’s a very personal experience and it’s very different for everyone, and I wanted to show one version of that,” Valia said. “People have said they felt a little more normal that it’s okay to do this, and that means so much. That’s why you make things, to connect with other people.”
Watch “Lucia, Before and After” above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. Presented with support from IMAX.