No Kids for me
The fact that it took Quebec filmmaker Magenta Baribeau 6 years to self-fund No Kids for me, Thanks (Maman? Non merci!) is somewhat alarming. Her documentary is by no means a big budget production. The subject of rejecting motherhood is taboo and provocative, although maybe it shouldn’t be. It is a personal issue for the filmmaker; when she turned 30 it surprised her that so many people had opinions about her what she did with her womb. Baribeau interviews French-speaking women ranging in age from their 20s to 80 in Canada, Belgium and France. They discuss their decisions to live without children.
Quebec professor and author Lucie Joubert reveals that after writing a book about women choosing childlessness, she was a little hesitant about publishing it. Many people were still not open to this public discussion. Joubert reflects on the time a stranger on the train tried convincing her to have kids. She was forced to lie to this woman, saying that she couldn’t have kids, which resulted in the woman pushing for adoption. This interrogation about one’s life choice, from a stranger no less, is unnecessary. Joubert was not alone in this regard, as other interviewees also share similar pressure they get from family, friends and strangers. Melanie, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, chooses not to have another child but is still pressured by friends to have more.
Most of the interviews are held out in nature, with natural lighting and still frames – possibly due to Baribeau’s limited budget. Baribeau’s camera tracks 71-year-old Claudette while she’s on the move, never at rest and clearly proud to take care of herself. Claudette is always on the go, never wanting to stay home too much. Her point of view counters the argument that having kids means someone will always be around to take care of you. She points out that as a single aging woman she is more proactive in finding friends, while some of her peers are often left waiting in the nursing home for sporadic visits from their kids. Melissa volunteers at a cat shelter busily cleaning litter boxes while she explains that her past experience as a stepmother made her realize that she did not want to have her own kids. She loves her freedom and desires the same respect she gives those who have kids, free of judgment.
Baribeau shows the childfree male perspective, too. These men also take offense when people call their lifestyle choice a selfish one. Two Canadian men chose to have vasectomies, one whose decision was supported by his girlfriend and the other supported by his mother. They had their procedures without protest from their physicians, but when Baribeau considered having a tubal ligation she was told that Canadian doctors will not perform a tubal until a woman is 30, stating that they think she will change her mind. These impassioned men have no regrets about their vasectomies so who’s to say that a woman is any different.
It’s a shame that this film has yet to reach a wider audience since its initial November 2015 release. Most of the press that No Kids for me, Thanks has received has been in the French-speaking world, which is a little limiting. Baribeau even receives hate mail from people who have not even seen the film. They seem to think that the documentary is a pro-childfree film when, in fact, it’s just showing a different perspective that is very present in society. French graphic novelist Véronique Cazot discusses the pressure in society and how that led her to write the comic strip Et Toi, Quand est-ce que tu t’y mets? (And When Are You Going to Start Trying for a Baby?), trying to break down the taboo in a comic way.
After the Berlin Feminist Film Week 2017 screening, Baribeau asked the audience about their current status, and she was happy to see mixed responses because at her other screenings most of the audience members were happy to stay childfree. The Berlin audience was divided with those who already had children, those who didn’t want any and those who were still undecided. These are the types of audiences that hopefully see this film in the future.
No Kids for me, Thanks shows a modern perspective that is often left out of mainstream discussions. Bravo to Magenta Baribeau for putting her blood, sweat and tears and 6+ years of her life into making a documentary that sheds light on a life choice that is still seem as an abnormal one. The honest and simplistic dialogue in Baribeau’s documentary is one that deserves to have a wider audience.
Stars: 4.0 out of 5
Cast: Lucie Jourbert, Melissa Berniqué, Melanie Roy, Claudette Valiquette
Director & Writer: Magenta Baribeau
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Language: French (Canada, Belgium, France)
Production Company: Self-funded
by Lindsay Bellinger