This powerful documentary about Still Birth has received a 4 star review in The Guardian and yet getting to this point has been far from easy for director Debbie Howard.
Here is her story:
My name is Debbie Howard. I’m a filmmaker and run Big Buddha Films which I set up ten years ago. I have just completed Still Loved, the first ever feature length documentary to show how families survive the loss of a baby.
During the making of my previous short film Peekaboo, which also looked at this subject matter, I had already built up close relationships with many families who had lost babies. I had their trust from the beginning of this documentary and was able to gain access to their personal lives.
I had become passionate about telling these parents’ stories over the past few years, as I had discovered how much of a taboo talking about stillbirth is and how this can slow the healing of families involved.
I had met courageous, humorous and generous people and desperately wanted to share their stories with others.
Over 3,500 babies are stillborn in the UK every year – shockingly, the highest stillbirth rate for any country in Europe.
People need to understand that it’s not abstract when a baby dies. It’s someone’s child that has died. Saying things like ‘Never mind you can have another’ aren’t helpful, in exactly the same way that we wouldn’t say that to someone who lost a ten year old child.
We need to be able to feel comfortable to talk about their babies, to say their name. I hope this film will bring much more understanding around what happens in a family when their baby dies.
“…This is one of the most neglected, marginalised, stigmatised issues in global health today. We simply don’t talk about stillbirths.”
Richard Horton, Editor in Chief, The Lancet
In Still Loved we focus mainly on three families’ distinct and unique stories, supported by other families to punctuate and enhance the three main narratives. These are woven together into one story arc, telling a common story with different voices.
This helps to illustrate the frequency of baby loss and how it affects so many more people than just the parents, including siblings, extended family and friends.
We look closely at the role of the fathers.
Dads often feel marginalized when a baby dies, most of the focus being on the mother. In Still Loved the dads express their feelings about losing their baby and about the way our culture and society expects men to handle this, not really giving them a place or time to grieve. We are passionate about giving the fathers a voice in this film and they relish the opportunity to speak candidly about how they really feel.
The challenge I face is to engage audiences to watch a film about such a difficult subject matter and for this film to have further reach than those that have lost a baby themselves.
In order to tackle this, I chose stories that offer hope, love, resilience and courage. Ultimately it’s a human story uncovering the incredible ability to triumph over adversity.
The participants are very candid about their feelings, and although heartbreaking in places, we use humour to offer relief and create light and shade throughout the film.
Filming was very difficult at times, but also wonderful, as I got to know these amazing families. I was overwhelmed by their strength and openness and their willingness to share their stories with us and others.
Watch the trailer for Still Loved here: https://vimeo.com/145618118
Still Loved is currently being released into cinemas throughout October, for International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. This has been extremely difficult due to the subject matter being too much for people. A lot of programmers simply wouldn’t watch it, or just told us “There is no interest in this subject.”
This was challenging, being that they are the Gatekeepers, a big wall between our audience and the film itself. Only a handful of cinemas came on board to screen the film, so the rest of the screenings we have booked through Ourscreen. The cinema books you in and you have to pre sell a lot of tickets through your own networks two weeks before the screening or it’s cancelled.
This is incredibly difficult, because very few people book cinema tickets weeks in advance and no press will cover the event until it’s confirmed.
We have been doing a huge amount of promotion and publicity ourselves, with the support of Tommy’s. But we want to reach a wider audience. It’s no use preaching to the converted. Those that have lost babies know exactly what happens when a baby dies.
We want the film to reach those that don’t know. It’s an incredibly valuable film for midwives and health care professionals, but also for anyone supporting someone through a loss. Ultimately it’s a film for anyone who has ever, or will ever lose someone they love.
Last night we had our first screening, our official World Premiere at AMC Cinema in Manchester. It was interesting that so many cinemas said there was no interest in the subject, because we were almost sold out, on a Tuesday evening, with around 100 tickets sold. Our next screening in Cardiff on Friday 7th October is also pretty much sold out at this point. So I think this proves the cinemas wrong.
Our first screening went down incredibly well.
Each screening is followed by a Q&A with a panel made up of us filmmakers but also bereaved parents and bereavement midwives or baby loss support befrienders.
Last night’s Q&A was very interesting and there was a great deal of discussion afterwards. We handed out feedback forms for people to fill in. Almost every one gave us 5 stars and incredibly positive feedback. Some of the quotes from last night were:
“It was real life, not glossing over the harsh realities of stillbirth but presenting it as it is. But also allowing laughter through the tears.”
“Emotive, fantastic documentary. Everyone needs to see this.”
“What a brilliant piece of work! Congratulations on helping to open up the dialogue for affected families and health professionals. So impactful and in addition it looks absolutely beautiful!”
We have struggled to make Still Loved from beginning to end.
At no point have we received any film funding and we have managed to make the film by small grants and an enormous amount of crowdfunding and private investment from families that have been affected by baby loss, as well as hard work and dedication from our team.
This has meant that things take us longer.
For example, we are getting asked daily for the film to become available overseas and for it to be available as an educational package for midwives and health care professionals. We want to do all these things, but aren’t able to yet because we don’t have the funds.
We are continuously fund raising to enable us to carry on each new phase of getting the film out to those that want to watch it. If you would like to contribute to our Just Giving campaign, please do so, it will help another person, or hopefully thousands to see this film.
If you would like to see a screening of Still Loved please see the screening list on our website:
To find out more about the film visit www.stilllovedfilm.com
Help us end the silence around baby loss and get this film to the silver screen.
With one in four pregnancies ending in a loss, it’s so important to break the silence around stillbirth
After previewing Still Loved earlier this month, we caught up with director Debbie Howard to hear the challenges of screening a story about baby loss.