‘The Janes’ premiers at Chatham for the Just Films series


“The Janes” movie poster. Photo Credit: IMDB

Christina Kakadelis

“The Janes”

Just Films’ first event of the season took place Sept. 20 at Eddy Theatre. This program is a joint venture by the Black Women’s Policy Center, Chatham University Art & Design Department and Women’s Institute, MomsWork Powered by NCJW Pittsburgh, the Women and Girls Foundation, the Women’s Law Project, and YWCA Greater Pittsburgh. Together, they host monthly events open to the community that features documentaries about gender and intersectional social justice issues. For their first outing of the Fall 2022 semester, Just Films screened “The Janes” and hosted a panel of women committed to fighting for reproductive justice in Western Pennsylvania.

“The Janes,” directed by Oscar-nominee Tia Lessin and Emmy-nominee Emma Pildes, centers on a group of women in 1960s Chicago who provided illegal abortions under the pseudonym, Jane. The documentary, which aims to show the state of abortion care in a pre-Roe v. Wade world; has become inadvertently timely with the Supreme Court’s overturn of the legislature in June of this year. The group of women who comprised the Jane organization performed over 11,000 low-cost and free abortions over the five years they existed in the South Side of Chicago.

After the film, Kelly Davis MPA, Sydney Etheredge and Susan Frietsche took the stage to discuss the movie and their own personal experiences in healthcare. These women represent New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and Western Pennsylvania Office of the Women’s Law Project respectively. Their critique of “The Janes” during the panel shed light on the shortcomings of the documentary.

While the story of “The Janes” and the work they did for providing healthcare is an underreported part of American history, the film was uninterested in looking at the privilege the organization had as mostly white women. The women in the film remarked that they felt they were probably not understanding of the women of color they interacted with and likely were not sensitive to those women’s life experiences, but no meaningful attempt was made by the film to unpack that lack of responsibility the Janes felt. No effort was made to include firsthand accounts of women of color who received an abortion from the organization. There was only one black member of the Janes and she received far less screen time than other subjects.

Just Films Panel

During the panel discussion, a recurring theme emerged: legality is not accessibility. Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, there were only 17 abortion care providers in the entire state of Pennsylvania. 

“We often think about abortion as a single issue,” Davis said. Without considering intersectionality, it’s easy to believe the fight is over when legality is achieved. But how can it be the finish line if laws are disproportionately applied?

“The work is not done. No matter how safe, no matter how legal,” Etheredge said during the panel’s closing remarks. Healthcare is irrevocably tied to a multitude of social issues and should not be looked at in a vacuum.

The Just Films program is one of a few new opportunities for Chatham students interested in film studies. On September 16th, the Eddy Theatre played host to guests from the movie industry for Pitch-burgh, organized by the Pittsburgh Film Office. Vlad Wolynetz was the keynote speaker of the event. His credits as a development executive and producer feature more than a few widely-beloved TV shows: “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men”, “Torchwood”, and is currently in town for Jeremy Renner’s “The Mayor of Kingstown”. Wolynetz split his keynote address into both a reflection on his career and an open forum for students to discuss their thoughts on the future of the film industry.

Also in attendance were industry panelists representing various sectors of Pittsburgh media production. Arielle Reed of Fred Rogers Productions, Krystle Grandy of Reel Works, and Christopher Gage of NEP Group. The variety of these panelists showed students how many different sectors within the industry exist and the various ways students can gain experience. The panelists took questions from the audience that ranged from movies they love to what it means to be successful.

There are plenty more film events throughout the semester at Chatham as well as a new student-run film club, Cougar Flicks. 

Check out the schedule below to see the rest of Just Films’ upcoming schedule. All films have a reception at 5:30 p.m. before the screening begins at 6 p.m.

Oct. 18: “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America”

Nov. 15: “The Great American Lie”