We had the pleasure to sit down with the amazing director and mom, Dana Ben Ari and chat about her new movie, breastfeeding and how it can inspire positive change in your life.
1. How did Breastmilk The Movie present itself to you?
As a mother who breastfed over the years, I have seen many women and families struggle with either the logistical aspects of breastfeeding or the cultural challenges around it. I began to wonder about the causes, the pressures, and about the limitations society still places on women. It’s hard to pinpoint, but eventually I realized that a documentary would allow me to explore these issues and make these experiences visible and relevant.
2. Why did you decide to work on this project?
I think there is something lacking in the mainstream feminist movement around this issue, and I wanted to be a part of that conversation. The film is more of an exploration of the challenges that exist for women who try to breastfeed, as opposed to a debate whether we should formula feed or breastfeed. I wanted to start from that point — that many women want to breastfeed, but something gets in the way.
3. What was the biggest challenge you faced as a first time director while trying to approach such a provocative topic?
I had a wonderful team and a talented director of photography who taught me a lot. I knew that I needed to give the mothers and partners space and let them have their own journey without interfering or advising them. I can be somewhat of a provocateur, so I wouldn’t say that it was always hard and challenging – we also had a lot of fun!
4. Was it hard to stay neutral on the subject?
This is an interesting question for me because I don’t see the film as many do. While I was not interested in telling women what to do, whether to nurse or formula feed, or to cover up or stay at home, I think the film has some clear pro breastfeeding messages and a call for political action and change. I wanted to make a subtle film, and not a preachy documentary that forces an agenda. I am quite happy with the result, and how we balanced the topics.
5. Did you learn anything that you did not know about breastfeeding while documenting the movie?
I knew a lot before starting the film but certainly most of what I learned had to do with filmmaking. That said, making this movie was a very important lesson regarding women and how oppressed we still are.
6. Documenting individual personal moments like breastfeeding can be very unpredictable, did you have any “unexpected surprises”?
Most of our subjects were very open with us, but we still couldn’t predict which couple or mother would be more willing to discuss their intimate relationships on camera, or be willing and playful to allow us to film their breasts squirting milk for the sheer fun of it. It was incredible to see these men and women open up to us with such trust and comfort.
7. What changes do you hope your movie will inspire?
The first step would be to participate in honest dialogue concerning women and their needs. Once we accept that many women want to have kids and breastfeed, while still participating in the workforce and public life, we can begin to demand certain changes to our culture and legislation.
8. What was it like to work with Executive Producer Ricki Lake?
Wonderful! Ricki and I share the same passion for women’s health issues and both she and Abby Epstein have been very supportive of the project. Plus, they’re a lot of fun to work with!
9. What is next for you? Are you working on any new projects?
Well, I have some ideas but it will take some time. Some people are asking if there’s going to be a “Breastmilk 2” but I think it would be fun to move on to a new subject.
WATCH THE TRAILER
ABOUT THE MOVIE:
Directed by Dana Ben Ari and from Executive Producers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein comes the newest film about our miraculous mothers… Pregnant bodies are easy for society to accommodate. What follows birth is a different, messier story. With a wide range of frank, revealing and often hilarious interviews, this critically acclaimed documentary follows the lives of breastfeeding women from all walks of life and the experts who guide them through this nurturing process. It’s all on the table as they address the many facts, questions, misconceptions and taboos surrounding breast milk and what we feed our babies.
ABOUT DANA BEN-ARI:
Dana became fascinated with breastfeeding after the birth of her first child. She quickly learned about the physical challenges of motherhood and the problems women encounter. After her second child, she began to examine breastfeeding on film, talking to scores of women. The result is her groundbreaking documentary, BREASTMILK, which marks her feature film debut. Ben-Ari was previously a high school teacher in the New York City public schools for seven years before studying social work, then turning to filmmaking. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.