Joanne-Aśka Popińska’s doc highlights the many difficulties of unwanted pregnancy.
In 2018, Polish-Canadian VR filmmaker Joanne-Aśka Popińska raised $15K CAD through a Kickstarter campaign to begin documenting the difficulties women were facing when it came to their right to choose to have an abortion after witnessing the Polish government reduce many human rights and freedoms, including an outright ban on abortion. Women’s rights were being directly threatened by the government.
The end result was The Choice, a VR film that puts you into the body of a pregnant woman as she goes through the difficult decision of having to make a choice. This “in your shoes” VR experience sends your mind into a whirlwind of questions and shows you the difficulties women around the globe face every single day. The virtual film also puts you face-to-face with women as they tell you their stories about the challenges they needed to overcome.
Each story is extremely personal and raw; it was vital to Popińska that these women had an outlet to be able to tell those stories, where they felt protected and could help start a dialog with other women in their situation and even those who were against abortion.
In June 2020, the production team behind The Choice competed in two of four grant categories through Kaleidoscope’s Femme Futures and the Creative Challenge Grant initiatives and won in multiple categories simultaneously, which is the first time any project has ever done that.
In an official press release, René Pinnell, Kaleidoscope’s CEO, and founder said, “It’s clear to me that the Kaleidoscope community has spoken and they want to see these types of socially-aware projects being made. It’s truthfully why we created Kaleidoscope, to encourage and support unique immersive content. It’s an incredibly powerful message from the Kaleidoscope community—to support the project that’s about the social change, human rights, and women’s health, [especially] in the depth of a global pandemic, and the rallies and protests flowing over the US and around the world today.”
In the US alone, 29 states are considered hostile toward abortion rights, making it difficult for women to have that choice. That means roughly 58% of US women of reproductive age are living in states considered hostile to abortion rights. To put it into a more staggering perspective, it’s nearly 40 million US women.
One state in particular that makes it difficult for women to exercise their right to have a choice, according to Popińska, is Texas. Yes, abortion is legal in that state, but as Popińska explains during an interview with VRScout, she has met women in Texas who have experienced difficulty choosing to terminate a pregnancy.
“In Texas, doctors are allowed to omit information from you if they think you are considering an abortion because they are allowed to protect the life of a fetus,” said Popińska adding, “Even if that means putting the mother’s life in danger.”
The VR films Creative & Technical Producer, Tom C Hall explains how doctors are allowed to keep information from the patient, and at the same time, they are protected from being sued for malpractice in case something goes wrong. It’s not law specific to abortions, but it’s a law that is used by physicians for preventing them.
It’s this reason that Popińska and her team plan on continuing their work with The Choice by meeting more women and capturing more stories through VR.
“This topic needs to be brought into the public narrative. We need to be having these conversations, and we need to be having them in a safe space and in a way that is using our humanity to understand where someone else is coming from,” said the VR films producer, W. Jay Moore, adding, “I just feel like we have gotten so polarized in all of our conversations that we’ve lost humanity in a lot of ways, and think this project helps this message get the human element across.”
The Choice was released on Tribe of Pan, a VR production company owned by Popińska and Hall.
Image Credit: Tribe of Pan Inc.