WATSONVILLE — In the 1970s, a group of Mexican immigrant mothers sued Los Angeles County doctors, the State of California and the U.S. government after they were sterilized unknowingly at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
That landmark case, and the women involved in it, are the subject of the Emmy Award-nominated "No Más Bebés," set to be screened May 10 at the Appleton Grill & Event Lounge, 410 Rodriguez St. in Watsonville, at 7 p.m.
Academy Award-nominated director Renee Tajima-Peña will be on hand for an audience question-and-answer session following the film. Tajima-Peña is a former director of the UC Santa Cruz Social Documentation MFA program. She currently teaches at UC Los Angeles.
Tajima-Peña said while the Madrigal v. Quilligan case specifically deals with unwanted sterilization, the story is more about reproductive freedom.
"Today, women’s reproductive autonomy is under attack in a way we haven’t seen in years," she said. "And it isn’t only a threat to abortion rights. That’s why people are talking today about reproductive justice, meaning a woman’s freedom to terminate a pregnancy, or have a child and raise that child in dignity, to be able to keep that child healthy and safe."
Six of the sterilized mothers agreed to be filmed for "No Más Bebés." But tracking them down after more than 35 years after the fact resulted in a "lot of old-fashioned gumshoe work," Tajima-Peña said.
Together with producer Virginia Espino, Tajima-Peña said they dived through court records from the 1970s, and talked to old neighbors while attempting to find relatives.
"Luckily, both Virginia Espino and I live on the eastside, so we didn’t have to go too far to search," Tajima-Peña said. "Sometimes it was right down the street."
Since it was released in 2015, "No Más Bebés" has been broadcasted on PBS's Independent Lens series, and has been shown across the country. May 10's screening marks the film's premiere in Watsonville.
"People are shocked by the story, and a number of people we’ve met have realized that their own families might have experienced coercive sterilization," Tajima-Peña said.
"No Más Bebés" is the third showing in the Watsonville Film Festival's “Women By Women” series, presenting films directed by, and featuring, the stories of women from around the world.
“It’s an important and powerful film giving voice to immigrant mothers who often didn’t even share this painful story with their own children or spouses,” said Consuelo Alba, executive director of the Watsonvillle Film Festival.
"No Más Bebés" will be screened May 10 from 7-9 p.m. at the Appleton Grill & Event Lounge, 410 Rodriguez St. in Watsonville. Tickets are $8 for adults, and free for youth under 18.
For information, visit www.watsonvillefilmfest.org.