Hello friends! My name is Sarah Joy Byington-Butler, and last year I directed a short film called Labor + Justice.
Set in a dystopian United States, Labor+Justice explores what our future could look like if pregnant persons were sentenced to death for failure to bring their unborn child into this world alive.
“Labor and Justice” is a mixture of genres but can be best described as a surrealist nightmare. Comparable to The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, Labor + Justice weaves thriller with horror, yet draws out empathy and heartbreak with its all-to-relatable themes. The most obvious theme is the injustice of a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body and her unborn child. I wrote this film back in January of 2019. It wasn’t until the Fall of 2021 that I decided to move forward with directing it. Little did I know that in the middle of our pre-production, a leaked draft of the withdrawal of Roe v. Wade, and the decision to retract it altogether, would occur. I will admit there were doubts that we should move forward due to the gravity of SCOTUS’ decision, not to mention the grief, but doors kept opening for us, and we took it as a sign to move forward. Returning to this script is not a coincidence. It’s an urgent display of the need for a woman’s right to choose. There is no time to lose. The idea that art doesn't bring change is a lie. I hope that this film will bring awareness, change minds, and provoke change.
The first theme is subtly expressed through our lead actress Anissa, who is both Black and Mexican. According to the CDC, in 2020 the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women. Nearly 3x MORE. Aside from the injustices of women’s rights over their bodies as a whole, I felt is necessary to touch on this injustice in the delivery room.
The second theme is emphasized by the gluttonous charade of the Judge’s eating during the birth. To me, this portrays the carelessness and power-hungry nature of our government leaders when it comes to women’s rights. They easily forget it is real-human beings that must suffer the consequences of their actions, and parade through their meetings and their town halls as such. Our third theme is the use of religion as an excuse for our government’s decision-making, rather than keeping the two separate. Our 7th Judge indulges in himself as he sings a hymn throughout the birth, which is completely inappropriate and insensitive.
Lastly, the crux of the film was the sentencing to death based on the life of the baby, not the mother. Though this is not where our country is, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched. As a woman and a mother myself, I sometimes feel that society treats my husband's and children’s lives as more valuable than mine. Don’t get me wrong, I would lay down my life for them, and as for my career, I have in some instances. But I feel society was wired in this inequality, and it runs deep.
PROJECT STATUS AND NEED
Festival Run and Music Licensing
Each festival submission can range from $20-$80 for short films. We have submitted to over 30 festivals and are in need of funds to help offset the costs of submissions and to continue to promote the movie through festivals! The purchase of music licenses comes hand in hand. ExtremeMusic.com allows us to submit the film to festivals without the licenses until it gets accepted into one. Now that we have been accepted into HollyShorts and will be premiering next month, we will need to purchase each track. We have used two tracks from their site, totaling $1200, and if you have seen the film, you know how powerful those musical choices make Labor+Justice. We also are using a track from Musicbed for $300, and we will need to create a new DCP for an additional $300.
A list or receipt of the festivals we've submitted to are available upon request.
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