Eva-Maria — Stronger Than Fiction documentary festival 2021

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Eva-Maria has reached her early thirties and has decided that she wants to have a baby and to do so via in vitro fertilisation.  What differentiates Eva-Maria from the majority of women in such circumstances is that due to spastic cerebral palsy she lives with complex disabilities that see her requiring full-time care.  Eva-Marie can drive her wheelchair once she’s been helped into it and has good use of her left arm, but she depends entirely on her carer, physiotherapist, medical team, colleagues, and family for every aspect of daily living.

Eva-Maria chronicles Eva-Maria’s journey to motherhood, including intimate issues such as her choice of sperm donor; her uncertainty about whether to go beyond a third in vitro attempt; her ultrasounds during pregnancy; preparation for the baby’s arrival; and the baby’s early care.

The film mostly concentrates on Eva-Marie’s experience, thoughts, and feelings, but is also an intimate portrait of the remarkable and trusting relationship she shares with her carer, Lukas Ladner, who also directed the film.

Eva-Maria is interesting both in what it portrays and in what it omits.  It is unusual to showcase a disabled woman’s journey to motherhood.  Undoubtedly the socioeconomic and ethical issues that arise in a decision to bring into the world a baby for whose care Eva-Marie could do little were carefully raised with her by her family and care team, and the documentary would have been more complete with depiction of her consideration of these issues.  But the film’s notable highlights include her optimism and determination, the commitment of the team of professionals caring for her and subsequently her baby, and the remarkable love and support of her family — which all together made it possible for her to fulfil her wish to have a baby.

Stronger Than Fiction’s 2022 season will commence with The Magnitude of All Things (which STF says “uses ecological grief as a fresh lens for thinking about climate change”), screening at Dendy, Canberra Centre, on Sunday 27 March at 3 p.m.

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