By Liz Lopez
During the 1960s and 70s at the Los Angeles county hospital, many mothers of Mexican descent, some immigrants, went there to have their child delivered. While giving birth, they were issued English only documents to sign as they were registered and were told to sign oftentimes without their husbands or other family present to assist. Included in this document was a statement that they were giving authorization to be sterilized without details. This was not clearly itemized/discussed by the medical staff, often omitted, as they obtained signatures while wheeling the patient into the delivery room. I do not remember hearing about this back then or after legal steps were taken decades ago. Iand.
It was not until the 2015 Austin Film Festival that I viewed the documentary feature film, No Mas Bebes, where I learned about the actions by staff at the hospital that impacted so many families forever. For anyone who has not yet seen the 2015 film that had a Broadcast Premiere on PBS’s Independent Lens (February 2016), writer – director Kathryn Boyd-Batstone created the short, For Rosa, as a graduate USC thesis narrative film inspired by the Madrigal Ten, a group of women who were ten of many Latinas sterilized and took legal action. Her film was available to the Austin Film Festival virtual participants October 2020.
For Rosa was included in the Shorts Program 2 – Charged Shorts category. The film is 20 minutes in duration and is very powerful as it conveys the story of a fictional mother, Eva, who after being informed of her sterilization has to make some life decisions with her husband, her families and the community at large. Eva is performed by Melinna Bobadilla (Orange is the New Black, Grand Hotel) who has to make the decision to go public and join Jessica (Idalia Valles, Queen of the South), a 26 year- old fierce Chicana attorney, and nine other women in a lawsuit against the hospital. This is a huge decision considering when she learned of the sterilization and told her husband, Jorge (Rick Mancía (East Los High, NCIS), he didn’t want anyone outside the home to know.
The three main characters listed are very effective in their performances as they each have a good history of working in dramatic shows and provide an authenticity that is necessary for the script. The cinematography by Hark Xu is also to be noted as the great scenes capture the joy, the disappointment and the lives of the families who voiced the injustice and found ways to move forward with no mas bebes (no more babies).
Produced by Ashley Flores, Sabrina Ehlert and executive produced by Chuey Martinez (The Chuey Martinez Show on El Rey Network), For Rosa will premiere on HBO Latino and will be available to stream on HBO Max in May. Locate the showtime this weekend on www.hbo.com/schedule
Source: USC School of Cinematic Arts, Austin Film Festival, HBO