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Documentary BELLY OF THE BEAST exposes modern-day eugenics, reproductive injustice in prisons

‘BELLY OF THE BEAST’ DOCUMENTARY TO HAVE NATIONWIDE THEATRICAL RELEASE STARTING FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16

TIMELY & POWERFUL NEW EXPOSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES OF WOMEN IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS A FILM AWARDS CONTENDER; RELEASES JUST AS WHISTLEBLOWER BROKE NEWS ABOUT FORCED STERILIZATIONS IN ICE FACILITY

FEATURING ORIGINAL SONG ‘SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE’ FROM GRAMMY WINNING AND OSCAR NOMINATED SINGER-SONGWRITER MARY J. BLIGE WHO WROTE AND PERFORMED THE AWARDS CONTENDER

“I was moved by Erika Cohn’s important documentary Belly of the Beast. I immediately knew I wanted to be involved and was inspired to write a song that would amplify the voices of women in prison. ‘See What You’ve Done’ is a testimony, a call to be strong, and an anthem for a movement.” – Mary J. Blige

“POWERFUL” – The Root      

“HARROWING” – NPR

LOS ANGELES – When an unlikely duo discovers a pattern of illegal sterilizations in women’s prisons, they wage a near impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, the documentary feature BELLY OF THE BEAST exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons.

Directed by Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker Erika Cohn (The Judge and In Football We Trust), BELLY OF THE BEAST will have its theatrical release starting Friday, October 16, 2020 at theaters across the U.S. All current bookings are virtual cinema engagements.

Theatrical / Virtual Cinema Release Schedule

Friday, October 16
Los Angeles – Laemmle Theaters
Miami – O Cinema
New Orleans – New Orleans Film Society
Salt Lake City – Utah Film Center (Early open 10/13)
San Francisco – The Roxie (Early open 10/14)
San Francisco / Marin County – Smith Rafael Film Center (Early open 10/14)
Seattle – Northwest Film Forum
Washington, DC / Silver Spring, MD – AFI Silver

Friday, October 30
New York – Maysles Cinema

The film’s trailer features the original song ‘See What You’ve Done’ written and performed by Mary J. Blige, the nine-time Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominated singer-songwriter.

BELLY OF THE BEAST had its world premiere as the Opening Night Film at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June. This fall, it will screen at the Mill Valley Film Festival in the San Francisco Bay Area, Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival in Washington, DC, and Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. It will have its national television debut on the award-winning PBS television series Independent Lens on Monday, November 23.

The pastoral farmlands surrounding the Central California Women’s Facility, the world’s largest women’s prison, help conceal the reproductive and human rights violations transpiring inside its walls. A courageous woman who was involuntarily sterilized at the facility, teams up with a radical lawyer to stop these violations. They spearhead investigations that uncover a series of statewide crimes, primarily targeting women of color, from inadequate access to healthcare to sexual assault to illegal sterilization. Together, with a team of tenacious heroines, both in and out of prison, they take to the courtroom to fight for reparations. But no one believes them.

As additional damning evidence is uncovered by the Center for Investigative Reporting, a media frenzy and series of hearings provide hope for some semblance of justice. Yet, doctors and prison officials contend that the procedures were in each person’s best interest and of an overall social benefit. Invoking the weight of the historic stain and legacy of eugenics, BELLY OF THE BEAST presents a decade long, infuriating contemporary legal drama.

Statement from Erika Cohn, director of the documentary Belly of the Beast, on shocking new whistleblower accounts of forced sterilizations from new complaint filed today

“The Belly of the Beast film team stands in solidarity with the immigrant women under ICE custody at ICDC who were coercively sterilized, in addition to the courageous nurse whistleblower who came forward with additional evidence. The complaint filed recently by Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network illuminates a heinous pattern of hysterectomies in addition to other gross medical and human rights abuses. I have spent the past decade examining the human rights abuses, including forced sterilization, in California’s women’s prisons as both a volunteer legal advocate and as a filmmaker for the soon to be released documentary Belly of the Beast. Because of the levels of secrecy and privacy institutions hide behind, it’s incredibly difficult to uncover abuses of power and state sponsored violence. We demand immediate accountability for these eugenic practices, justice for the survivors and safeguards to prevent future abuses. America must reckon with its eugenic history and prevent a new genocide from occurring.”

About the Filmmakers

BELLY OF THE BEAST is directed and produced by Erika Cohn, produced by Angela Tucker, Christen Marquez, Nicole Docta, executive produced by Geralyn Dreyfous, Blye Faust, Mark Lipson, Patty Quillin, Doree Friedman, Diane Philips, Lois Vossen, and Sally Jo Fifer, and music supervised by Tracy McKnight.

Cohn is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning director/producer who Variety recognized as one of 2017’s top documentary filmmakers to watch and was featured in DOC NYC’s 2019 “40 Under 40.” Her award-winning films have debuted at top international film festivals including Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival.

More Info:

When: October 16, 2020

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