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Stories of A
Directed by Charles Belmont and Marielle Issartel
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Shot in Paris in 1973, this feminist film on the fight for abortion rights was banned as soon it was released. A large-scale game of hide-and-seek ensued, as activists created an underground distribution network, hiding the film from the police — and creating an effective model for cinema as an act of civil disobedience in the process.

Faced with a tide of illegal abortions leading to death and sterility, a group of doctors decided to offer abortions for free, and to be public about it. Charles Belmont and Marielle Issartel originally set out to make an educational film about the movement. Instead, they created a feature-length feminist classic.

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In STORIES OF A, we sit in on meetings with women and doctors, and witness abortions being performed. The film also takes us into the streets, as women demonstrate in front of hospitals, facing police repression. Perhaps most importantly, STORIES OF A amplifies the voices of women seeking abortions: a high school girl living in a shelter, two Algerian women who already have numerous children. And then there is Aïcha, an outspoken disabled immigrant woman on a hunger strike, who opens and closes the film.

Recently restored, STORIES OF A is both a fascinating historical document, and a reminder of the critical importance of access to abortion.

Stories of A is a stirring, frank, over-the-top plea for reproductive freedom, and an equally violent indictment of anachronistic legislation. The human testimonies and true-to-life documents that comprise it explain better than many theoretical commentaries how urgent it is to try and provide education and to amend a flouted law.” —Le Monde, 1973

“A clear, distinct, powerful plea in favor of abortion freedom.” —Film-Tract, 1973

“You should watch Stories of A—and then watch it again.” Liberation, 1974

“Histoires d’A has remained an iconic film, between the upheaval that followed its prohibition in November 1973 by Minister of Culture Maurice Druon, and the raucous trajectory of its militant renown. That’s precisely because it was not limited to a small circle of activists. This film is simultaneously the work of a filmmaker rooted in the tradition of direct cinema and the result of a campaign waged by trailblazers who had decided to jointly take the offensive.” —France Culture, October 20, 2022

“Histoires d’A. is not only important for its turbulent history and militant effectiveness in the path to the Veil Law (1975) and liberalizing abortion: it’s also, and by no means secondarily, a very beautiful film that captures a shift in French society and offers a striking look back that also reflects today’s struggles. Nothing here aims to shock, only to show and state, and therefore to demystify. By simply describing a practice, the film eliminates the moral or metaphysical stances that muddy the issue of abortion.” —Le Monde, September 27, 2022

“A precious testament to militant struggle, the film is also important for the breadth of its insight into the female condition. It uncovers the seething, unfiltered voices of wives, single mothers—of women from every walk of life, who tell the story of their marriages, homes, the slavery of domestic life, and the pressure from the medical community to “make babies,” and not terminate unwanted pregnancies. A strong, hard-hitting documentary that draws from the tensions and debates that stirred up a divided society ready to crack.” —Télérama, No. 3792, September 14, 2022

“While the voluntary termination of a pregnancy had always been considered a crime, Charles Belmont and Marielle Issartel’s documentary emerged as a spearhead in the struggle to legalize abortion. The film’s journey, which was at once chaotic and showy, attests to the discord of that era—censured and attacked, the film nonetheless circulated far and wide through parallel networks, rousing debates, prompting action, and taking part in a vast dissenting movement that would culminate in the vote in favor of the Veil law in January 1975.” —Télé, September 16, 2022

“The long instructional sequence that resulted in the banning of the film, which visibly showed a couple, with a doctor and nurse performing an abortion procedure, is not only remarkable for the simplicity of its format and its practical pedagogy. It also served as a prelude to a much broader consideration of the rights every woman has over her body, desire, and sexuality, the female condition, gender equality, and women’s economic and social precariousness in a patriarchal world that still sees their emancipation as a threat.” —Cahiers du Cinéma, November 2022

“This black and white documentary, filmed in 12 days by a team of volunteers, is a precious testament to not only a key moment in women’s struggle for the right over their own bodies, but more broadly to the female condition in France during this period.” —REVUS & Corrigés No. 16 - Fall 2022

“This amazing, radical film debuted under circumstances that could be considered, at the very least, hostile. It was banned from being shown in late 1973, even in private screenings or abroad, by Maurice Druon, the Minister of Cultural Affairs in Pierre Messmer’s government, despite having been approved by the Supervisory Commission. This film, which became ‘the subject of a gigantic game of hide-and-go-seek with the police,’ was illegally disseminated through the MLAC’s [Movement for Abortion and Contraception Freedom] network of local groups before being officially authorized in 1974.” —Critique Film FR, September 2022

“It’s the feminist film of this period that has withstood the test of time. It makes everything crystal clear and embodies that feminist principle of declaring ‘the personal to be political.'” —Hélène Fleckinger, historian, quoted in Society, December 08, 2022

“Histoires d’A was also, and still remains, an example of militant cinema that was mindful of people and situations, concerned about pedagogy and emotion, driven by a current where anger over unjust legislation mixed with the joy of a collective struggle filled with energy.” —Slate, June 20, 2023

89 minutes / B&W
French / English subtitles
Release: 2024
Copyright: 1973

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
France, Women's Health, Women's Studies, Social Movements, Human Rights, Health Issues, Politics

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