Director Jessica Champeaux looks into the world of lesbian parenting via artificial insemination in Belgium. This is mainly done via interviews with medical professionals, women who’ve decided to have children that way, and adults whose gay parents had them by artificial insemination.
It’s the last of those that’s the most interesting. Both the doctors and the parents largely let us know exactly what we’d expect to hear (at times parroting a party line that perhaps needs to be challenged a little more). However, the adult children are the voice that offers something new, expressing their confusion at the homophobia they experienced growing up because of their parents. They also talk about how they experience an oppression that is unique to them and can be quite acute – it’s not merely homophobia once removed as many would like to believe.
However, while the difficulties faced all around can be tough, the lasting impression is how worthwhile these families are. The kids may face difficulties but all of them grew up surrounded by love and came out with an impressive appreciation for the issues surrounding gay parenting and homophobia itself. Thankfully they’re also extremely well adjusted to the world itself. There may be a slight paranoia in the movie over whether gay parents produce gay kids, but the interviewees shut that down more than the director does, and offer some smart and thought provoking ripostes.
Indeed, it’s interesting that Champeaux seems more worried about everything than anyone else involved in the film is. It’s difficult to tell whether that’s because she genuinely was concerned or because she felt the audience needed more reassurance (we must remember that often films like this may be made for straight people who aren’t necessarily aware gay families are pretty much the same as straight families and may therefore need more convincing that most LGBT viewers would). But even while it sometimes seems to be labouring the point a little, it’s a well-made and interesting movie that touches on plenty of intriguing topics.
This is never truer than when it briefly focuses on the gay marriage debate in France, which saw the rise of the vehemently homophobic La Manif pour tous, among others. To many of the grown children this angry anti-gay sentiment was a shock, particularly as it directly targeted them due to its preoccupation with the idea gay marriage equals gay parents and that equals screwed up kids. Many had never experienced homophobia before in a way that seemed as directly targeted at them (partly because caring parents had tried to ensure they were as inured from that as possible), and their response to that is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film.
Ultimately, I couldn’t quite escape the feeling that Champeaux wasn’t quite the person to look at this, as her perspective and ideas slightly get in the way of the movie. She doesn’t explicitly reveal on screen quite how much she’s controlling things (despite her interest in the ethics of being a documentarian). It means that you can’t escape the sense you’re getting a filtered version of this without quite knowing what the filter is. Similarly, the movie is centred around artificial insemination but there’s no logical reason within the film why it couldn’t cover adoption or surrogacy, other than it (or by her own admission, Champeaux) chose not to – and that’s more of a problem than the film seems to realise.
Overall Verdict: The underserved topic of gay parenting by artificial insemination gets a documentary that’s more engaging because of the interview subjects than because of what the director tries to do with it.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac