Historical footage and intimate interviews with women activists blend powerfully in ‘The Janes,’ a documentary about a Chicago outfit providing women with safe but illegal abortions.

The powerful documentary ‘The Janes’ unites the stories of the women who needed illegal abortions with the heroic female activists who provided them.

Historical footage and intimate interviews with women activists blend powerfully in ‘The Janes,’ a documentary about a Chicago outfit providing women with safe but illegal abortions.

Are you wondering what life will be like for women if conservative Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling protecting a woman’s right to an abortion? Filmmakers Tia Lessin (Citizen Koch) and Emma Pildes (Jane Fonda in Five Acts) powerfully answer the question by returning audiences to ‘60s Chicago to learn about The Jane Collective, an organization providing women with safe but illegal abortions.

Premiering in the U.S. Documentary Competition section at Sundance Film Festival 2022, The Janes is a powerful blend of historical footage and intimate interviews with women activists risking their safety to launch Jane and help fellow women in need. The Janes represents best-in-class, by-the-book, documentary moviemaking. Lessin and Pildes refrain from avant-garde styles and experimental storytelling in the film. Instead, they emphasize the purpose and values igniting the risks taken by the brave women of Jane.

Co-directors Lessin and Pildes understand that the best documentaries deliver a creative nonfiction style separating their story from textbook learning. Standout sociopolitical documentaries like The Janes connect historical tales with present-day challenges and issues. When Lessin and Pildes lean their cameras close to Jane co-founder Heather Booth, sharing her story about helping a fellow University of Chicago student secure an abortion following rape, the anger, outrage, and sadness rise to the surface.

The story of The Janes is more about dates and names. It’s about ordinary women from diverse backgrounds and races rising to a healthcare challenge extraordinarily and heroically. It’s about ‘60s Chicago and its culture of misogyny expressed by mob enforcers, police officers, and university staff. All of these critical individuals like Marie Leaner and Judith Arcana come together smoothly thanks to the craft of Lessin, Pildes, editor Kristen Huntley (Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows), and cinematographer Keith Walker (Mavis!). There’s not a single storytelling hiccup throughout the movie, with Booth playing the role of the core narrator.

Are you working to protect a woman’s right to an abortion in 2022 and beyond? The Janes is a movie to watch and share with others. Do you know coworkers, family, or friends on the other side of the abortion debate? The story of the heroic female activists behind Jane will speak to everyone because everyone can get behind human dignity.

Director: Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes

Editor: Kristen Huntley

Cinematographer: Keith Walker

Producers: Daniel Arcana, Jessica Levin, and Emma Pildes

Distributor: HBO Documentaries 

Unrated

Air Date: TBD

Behind the Curtain: The Janes streams via HBO and HBO Max in 2022.

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