A young feminist filmmaker has focused her final thesis project on abortion, and it’s a harrowing, poetic musing on Malta’s last major taboo.
Emma Grima, a 24-year-old recent graduate, captured three Maltese women’s stories of abortion by dancers who’ve had abortions themselves – each journey unique yet threaded by trauma inflicted by the island’s water-tight anti-abortion laws.
“It’s an ode to all Maltese womxn* suffering in silence,” Grima explained.
The three-minute art film centres around three dancers, Leslie Humbert, Ellen Landa and Filip from Scapino Ballet Rotterdam. Through their bodies, the dancers explore the forcefully silent struggles of Maltese women who chose to terminate their pregnancies.
Malta has some of the strictest abortion laws on the planet. But that doesn’t mean women don’t get them. During COVID-19 lockdowns, a box of abortive pills was shipped to Malta every day, while at least 87 Maltese women reached out to a UK charity for abortion advice.
“Dealing with an unwanted pregnancy can be a traumatising journey and yet is a largely unspoken topic, censored by the state, the church, and a threat of criminal prosecution. The overall stigma has silenced many into burying their thoughts and emotions. Moreover, us womxn are being forced to lie due to the complete blanket ban constituted on abortion,” Grima explained.
“Without official statistics, there is no way of knowing how many womxn are experiencing this trauma, but I can show a fraction of the pain these desperate womxn are going through in isolation and silence,” she said.
“How can we begin to heal when we are forced into lying when we are burdened with guilt and fear instilled by our country?”
“I tackled this through film and dance. Creating a poetic piece that tries to portray at least a fraction of the process women in Malta goes through because of the blanket ban on abortion.”
Three Maltese women opened up about their individual abortion stories with Grima, shedding light on their choice process and emotions they have gone through. They had to stay anonymous, so three dancers were selected to represent their stories. Together they joined forces to carefully choreograph each individual story.
The women dancers, she added, were able to channel these emotions as they have had abortions themselves and understood the weight of it.
Grima hopes her piece will help chip away at the shame shrouded around those who get abortions.
“I wish that people will feel and realise the emotional thought and choice process women in Malta go through. It is a very powerful piece. The film is true to the real experience. It is expressive and raw and shows the reality of things.”
“This topic needs to be spoken about and shared to stop the silence and stigma and this is my way of sharing.”
With her final university project in the bag, Grima is just getting started on feminist art.
“I see this as a long-term project that is multifaceted, I do see myself tackling the topic on contraceptives and have already started to experiment,” she said, adding that she hopes to find more collaborators to improve it and bring it to film festival.
*Womxn is a political spelling of the English word woman. It’s used by intersectional feminists, to avoid perceived sexism in the standard spelling and to explicitly include or foreground transgender women and nonbinary people.
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