"The Mama Sherpas" Review

There are days and moments in our lives that we’ll never forget, whether good or bad. The day that you give birth (or for partners, when your child is born) is certainly one of those unforgettable moments that you want to be as close to perfect as humanly possible. Yet, for a growing number of women in America their extraordinary day has been scarred by poor bedside manner and/or a push for caesarean (c-section) births, which accounts for 32.7% of births in the United States. From executive producers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, “The Mama Sherpas” takes a look at midwives and their collaboration with hospitals as a solution to this problem.

A midwife is a trained professional with expertise in supporting women to maintain healthy pregnancies and have optimal births and recoveries during the postpartum period. The documentary focuses on eight different women’s voyage to giving birth, spread across four institutions that provide collaborative care between physicians and midwives. We follow the patient and midwives at each institution to get a feel of the process for all involved.       

It’s evident throughout the film that midwives give a pure, caring touch to the women they support from pregnancy past birth. Each interaction that takes place on screen between midwives and their patients has the amount of encouragement, love, and aid that you would expect from someone in your immediate family. While natural birth is what midwives hope to achieve, and the majority of outcomes in the film, we’re also able to see an example of a midwife helping during a c-section. 

At times, the features of different births become repetitive rather than building to a stereotypical fiery conclusion. In fact, there is no real call to action by the end of the film. Instead, the audience is left with a number of facts and what was put before them on the screen. Perhaps that’s the point. The documentary serves as a glimpse at successful midwife collaborations with hospitals to offer its viewers exposure to an alternative.

There is a certain awareness and care that permeates each frame from the film’s director, Brigid Maher. Inspired out of her successful natural birth after c-section, the documentary is personal. Nothing about the film feels rushed or forced. Maher controls the camera with a less is more approach throughout clinical visits and birth scenes. She shows just enough for us to know what’s happening in a scene, but not enough to throw your attention off of the beauty of birth. With the camera’s sensitive eye and the midwives’ sensitive approach, the combination makes for a natural, respectful observation of different women’s journey.

In a day and age where we consume information online or through documentaries, “The Mama Sherpas” is an intimate tale that provides a glimpse at an alternative to the birthing process. Like many other events in life, bringing a child into the world can be daunting if you’re not educated on all aspects of it. This film serves as a tool that should go in every expectant mother’s toolbox right beside What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

Rating: B

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.