Pregnancy loss rarely plays out on screen, mostly because miscarriage is rarely discussed in society. Nearly a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and yet it remains a taboo and isolating subject — an experience recounted in hushed tones between grieving parents, if even voiced at all.
But what if we saw pregnancy loss portrayed on screen on a regular basis? Would it still be as taboo and as isolating?
I ask those questions as someone who experienced a miscarriage five years ago, and I truly believe that if I’d had the opportunity to see the many nuances of miscarriage explored on screen in the lead-up to my loss, I would have had a better foothold in the storm. I wouldn’t have felt so alone.
Honestly, I wish I’d seen Hatch.
Hatch was written and directed by Vancouver filmmaker Heather Perluzzo. The short film stars Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries) as Marcy, a woman who experiences a miscarriage and wrestles with unrelenting guilt and sadness. Canadian acting icon Gabrielle Rose co-stars as Marcy’s worried mother.
Then comes the day when Marcy discovers an alien egg buried in her backyard, and the motherly feelings she develops for the egg turn her grieving inside out and sideways.
“I think trauma is always portrayed as a drama, as serious and dark, and I like to find playful ways to explore it,” says Perluzzo. “I want to provide an alternative experience to people who might have been in a dark place where they don’t necessarily want to relive the situation but they want to feel heard.”
Perluzzo has been in that dark place. Hatch — which screens next weekend at the Vancouver Short Film Festival — was inspired by Perluzzo’s own miscarriage.
“When I had my miscarriage, it was a very surreal experience, and I actually had to hold the four-month-old fetus and the first thing that came to mind was – this sounds harsh – but it looked like an alien,” says Perluzzo. “It didn’t look like a human being.” That stray thought in the midst of loss ultimately led to Hatch.
“I don’t want to ever offend anybody,” she notes. “As a filmmaker, we have a lot of responsibility to handle things appropriately, but also address the hard stuff. My audience for Hatch was people who’d experienced miscarriage, and also people who didn’t understand what it is like to lose something that was a part of you and never see it come to term or grow up.”
Hatch was produced in 2019 through Crazy8s, the moviemaking contest where teams compete for the opportunity to shoot and lock their films in eight days.
Perluzzo describes the entire Crazy8s experience as wonderful. “[But] the most wonderful thing that happened was the number of women who came up to me [after the Crazy8s gala] and shared their miscarriage stories,” says Perluzzo. “They’d tell me, ‘I’ve never really talked about my miscarriage before but I thought I’d share it with you because you were brave enough to share it on screen.’ To me, that is the most important thing.”
Perluzzo will continue to share personal experiences — and break taboos — in 2020. She returns to Crazy8s next month with This Is A Period Piece, about a “13- year-old tomboy who gets her period for the first time and ends up in this surreal reformation hospital where they try to turn all the girls who get their period into clones of what society projects a woman should be.” In the fall, she’ll go to camera on a short that takes place in a society where women aren’t allowed to interact with one another — and so one woman creates an AI version of herself and takes the idea of “self-love” to a new level.
Perluzzo says the experience of making and sharing Hatch has aided her in her own healing journey.
“I cried in my in-person pitch to Crazy8s because I was so nervous about opening up and telling the world my story, but the more that people asked me about my experience and my feelings, the more I was talking about it, and I became comfortable with it, to the place where now, I don’t see it as my fault,” she says.
Hatch screens on the closing night of the 2020 Vancouver Short Film Festival. The fest runs Jan. 24 to 26 and showcases live-action and animated narrative and documentary shorts by B.C. filmmakers. Schedule and tickets at VSFF.com.