A Review: “The Provider” (dir. Maya Cueva, Leah Galant, and Pete Quandt)

On April 17, 2015 I had the privilege of attending UNC-Wilmington’s Visions5 Film Festival & Conference. In an excellent lineup of shorts one stood out: “The Provider” (dir. by Maya Cueva, Leah Galant, and Pete Quandt) examines the controversial Texas House Bill Two (HB2) by placing abortion provider Dr. Shannon Carr in dialogue with anti-choice leaders.

Dr. Carr admits that “coming out” as a provider in this film could prove dangerous, and at the very least will allow family and friends to publicly judge her career choice. But she also performs her work earnestly, travelling across the country to provide much-needed procedures. She reluctantly delivers lines in exams regarding mandatory ultrasounds and medical risks of abortion to her patients, as mandated by the state of Texas. Despite these demeaning and condescending texts, her patients understand and leave their procedure with a quiet, grateful “Thank you.”

Unlike many abortion documentaries, The Provider is without clear bias. Although the filmmakers staunchly identify as pro-choice, the film honors the sincerity of each party’s opinions. This precision and care proves graceful and profound. In one anti-choice testimony, a man sits comically surrounded by twenty or thirty crosses wearing an “Abolitionist” t-shirt, but his words are genuine; it is the cinematography that lends an air of ridiculousness to his interview.

Later, we see a radio interview between a zealous anti-choice religious organization leader and show host: at one point the organization leader states with pride that out of the 2000 women’s clinics nationwide accessible in 2007, only 700 remain open in 2014. The gasps in the audience were audible, garnering another point for the filmmakers’ subtlety and adept editing.

The cinematography, well-paced editing, and command of material demonstrate that these Ithaca student filmmakers are astute political activists with a savvy understanding of debate and choice. I look forward to inviting them to screen their short in Minnesota.

The Provider will screen at 2015’s National Film Festival for Talented Youth and the Emmy’s College Television Awards in the coming weeks.

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