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Review: The 8th

We’re living in the 21st century, during which everything seems possible, apart from having the right to decide what to do with your body. Abortion is still taboo in many countries all over the world, and it shouldn’t be. Having the choice of what to do with your unborn baby isn’t as self-evident as you would think. It becomes even harder when you face repression from the government and the Catholic church. Directors Aideen Kane (A Woman Like That, Women in Blue), Lucy Kennedy (Women in Blue) and Maeve O’Boyle prove that in their latest documentary The 8th. They decided to visualize the battle to overturn the 1983 Irish referendum and the 8th amendment. The result? A beautiful, honest and eye-opening documentary that shows you that the fight for women’s abortion rights is far from done.

A picture of two campaigners fighting for women’s abortion rights. // Credit: Black Tabby Films

Two strong women, one loud and clear voice

The 8th follows several campaigners, each with a poignant story, but the real heroes are Ailbhe Smyth and Andrea Horan. Smyth has been a pro-choice activist for many years and isn’t afraid to show spread her opinion. This already resulted in her becoming the most important LGBTQ activist and receiving a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award at the GALAS. When you look at her, you see a happy, joyful and open person, but deep down, she faces her struggles because of the way society sees her and many other women.

On the other hand, Horan describes herself as a “glitter activist” and is the proud owner of a nail salon. At first, it seems that they come from totally different backgrounds and have not a lot in common, apart from being two strong women. However, by the end of the documentary, you realize that their fight (and the one of many women all over the world) is the same.

More than about just fighting the 8th amendment

While the documentary’s main focus is the restrictive 8th amendment, The 8th is so much more than that. It gives you a deeper insight into the global Irish society, how the role of women changed between 1983 and 2017 and the struggles women had to face throughout all those years. It also highlights emotional cases in which women requested an abortion but weren’t granted one, resulting in disastrous aftermaths.

While the topic is a very contemporary one, the format of this documentary is traditional. You follow the many strong women fighting for their rights, and in between, you see news footage and debates about abortion. You hear the many female voices of women who were denied abortion or who got one. The makers combine those voices with a delicate and emotional score, turning this documentary into a very moving one.

Sadly, there are also a few elements that could have been improved in The 8th. The fight for LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex marriage is mentioned because of Smyth’s LGBTQ activism, but the makers don’t go deeper into the similarities between the battles LGBTQ activists and the one women fighting for abortion face. This documentary provides you with the stories of people who fight for abortion rights but you don’t hear the opposition. That pro and cons dialogue is missing a bit in this documentary.

A woman fighting for women’s abortion rights. // Credit: Black Tabby Films

A vivid, compelling and up-close documentary

While The 8th isn’t flawless, it’s still a success on many levels. The documentary explains the different topics (abortion, the referendum, the amendment, etc.) in detail. The filmmakers combine this with stylish and personal footage, a moving score, and up-close stories. This absolutely results in a beautiful documentary that’s definitely worth the watch.

The 8th is available in cinemas and via Video on Demand.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: Inclusion In The Director’s Chair: Are Female Directors Finally Breaking Through?

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