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(DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary film festival, ran November 8-26 in New York City. HtN has boots on the ground and will be bringing you tons of coverage like Chris Reed’s movie review of No One Asked You. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

There has been no shortage of films about the reproductive-rights crisis in the United States, but how many have jokes? If you like your horror mixed with comedy, you could check out something like the recent Totally Killer. Or, instead, you could watch the new documentary about our nation’s dwindling access to abortion, No One Asked You. Directed by Ruth Leitman (Tony & Janina’s American Wedding), it follows comedian-activist Lizz Winstead, co-founder of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, as she travels the country to support the good folks on the frontlines of women’s healthcare.

She’s not alone. Joined by the her fellow members in Abortion Access Front (or AAF, which she founded), Winstead embarks on a “Vagical Mystery Tour” through the states most likely to deprive women of control over their own bodies. They do standup, but they also provide emotional support for the clinic employees. And they are not afraid to confront the protestors outside those clinics and provide counter-arguments.

Among the vast array of topics covered by this simultaneously substantive and entertaining film is that of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (or CPCs). These are effectively religious institutions masquerading as healthcare facilities, where the goal is to dissuade women from seeking abortions. It’s one thing to hold a belief and try to convince others of the validity of it; it’s quite another to actively deceive.

One of AAF’s techniques is to normalize the use of the word abortion. Forget euphemisms, forget any shyness around the term. When legal, it is a perfectly safe medical procedure. And no, a two-month-old fetus is not a person. Let women decide their own fate. Say abortion without shame. Wear the shirt that reads “I heart abortion.” Own it.

Don’t forget the jokes, however! There are plenty. Winstead is joined on stage by many talented other comedian-activists, including Joyelle Nicole, Jaye McBride, Jill Sobule, and others. Do not go crying into that good night, unless those tears are from laughter.

But then Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies, Amy Coney Barrett is appointed to the United States Supreme Court in her place, and things turn truly serious. It seems as if the violent rhetoric and actual violence of the anti-abortion crowd is on the ascendant. Is humor enough to stem the tide?

Of course not, but it’s a useful tool to stay sane. As is kindness, shown through the solidarity the members of AAF show towards each other as well as through the compassionate gestures they sometimes show the screaming folks on the other side. And remember that these are comedians and activists, both, and they are not letting Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization stop them from resistance. No One Asked You may be fairly straightforward as a piece of filmmaking, but it showcases some of the best that humanity has to offer.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

DOC NYC; Ruth Leitman ; No One Asked You documentary movie review

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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