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A HEALTHY BABY GIRL

USA, 1996 (MIFF 1997, Documentaries)

Director: Judith Helfand

25 year old Judith Helfand is crewing on a doc­umentary about the cancerous effects of DES (a drug supposed to prevent miscarriages which was widely prescribed in the 1960s) when she discovers that she is a 'DES Daughter'. Faced with a hysterectomy she agrees to participate in the film but questions the producer's approach, resulting in the crew jumping ship. Undeterred, Judith decides to carry on with her cousin's cam­corder and the resulting video diary takes us through the next five years as she and her par­ents struggle to resume their lives and Judith weighs into the cause of the 'DES Daughters'.

As someone who's had enough of depressing films about cancer, let me tell you this is no victim picture. Devoid of voyeurism and self-indulgence, Judith's camera sensitively but unflinchingly con­fronts her relationship with her parents and the bravery of her fellow Daughters, many now dead. Acknowledging, to her mother, that filming is, 'My attempt to find another way, so we don't have to stand in a dark corridor crying like this', Helfand captures genuinely moving moments in her rela­tionships in a documentary that's imbued with light and refuses to lie down.

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