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The Baby Formula

The Baby Formula > Out In Africa Film Festival

by Libby Allen / 05.09.2009

The Baby Formula takes speculation around the future of stem cell research and places it within a mockumentary-styled story of Athena and Lilith, a married Lesbian couple, and the web of absurd characters in their lives.

So here’s the premise: Athena works in a research lab where experiments on mice have made clear the possibility of procreation without any participation of the Y chromosome (or men, but “Y’ is about as complex as male representation need go here). So, on the down-low, Lilith’s cells are used to create completely female sperm, implanted in Athena and – presto- baby. But wait, wanting to feel craving and bloat and labour herself, Lilith snatches a couple of Athena’s cells and has her own egg fertilised, too. So, we meet two women playing each other’s nursemaid and baby vessel only a few months apart. The film feels, in part, like any Hugh Grant pregnancy movie; as charming and idiosyncratic in its examination of a couple’s journey from conception to birth, but tinged with a sci-fi edge and the spin of two women sharing and imposing their individual pregnancies with and on each other. Throw in a parade of dysfunctional family members, as you do; Scottish-Canadian fundamentalists on one side and alcoholic queens on the other, two awkward scientists and an exasperated documentary-maker. It is such a bizarre premise inside a tight plot which moves from ‘ag shame’ comedy to real crisis so believably, where improvisation and flitting handheld cameras give the film an edge smacking of Mike Leigh’s signature, heightened too by the real-life pregnancies of leads Megan Fahlenbock (Lilith) and Angela Vint (Athena). From hormonal rampage to growing bellies, the result is a raw, organic and endearing move through the couple’s story.

What is interesting is the film’s regard for its male characters who bumble around a story dominated by such complicated and wilful women. “We’re not trying to make men obsolete, just… unnecessary”, says one of the scientists, the first in a string of ridiculous stock male figures. But far from being problematic, this male circus serves as a kind of thematic extension of the story, and it’s very, very funny.

Using real experimentation as its root, first-time, excellent, director Alison Reid wanted to offer hope for same-sex or infertile couples through the film, and ideally, inspire further research. Although it doesn’t quite finish up as a groundbreaker for the science world, The Baby Formula is a great spin on the domestic couple comedy, not once preaching or coercing its audience into digestion of its themes, but offering them up, in a really sweet piece.

Screens as part of the Out in Africa Festival:
JHB Tue 8th / 7.15pm ♥ Fri 11th / 7.15pm
CT Tue 15th / 7pm ♥ Fri 18th / 6.30pm ♥ Sun 20th / 5.30pm

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