A filmmaker probably invites a certain level of controversy when she screens a film about the state of politics after the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller. Indeed, when After Tiller screened at the Sarasota Film Festival, event organizers brought in extra security just in case debate turned violent. But filmmakers Lana Wilson and Martha Shane said they were pleased debate never turned nasty. “The audience here is just so smart,” Wilson said.
They were also likely pleased when the Sarasota Film Festival’s documentary jury named After Tiller as winner of the Documentary Feature Competition this year.
For those not regularly following the abortion debate, George Tiller when he died was one of just a handful of late-term abortion providers in the United States, and was the subject of scorn heaped on the national stage by personalities like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. In 2009, he was shot to death in Kansas. After Tiller follows the story of the only remaining four late-term abortion doctors in the country, who now work under constant fear of violence.
Wilson and Shane say their hope with the film was not to make a film that strongly advocated for a political position as much as they wanted to calm the debate in America.
“What we hoped for, and what we are getting, is that audiences realize how complicated this issue really is,” said Shane. “It is not as simple and black and white as we may have thought.”
A moment in Sarasota that pleased the filmmakers was in a Q&A when an audience member who professed a strong opposition to abortion spoke up. “He said we brought up points that he appreciated,” Wilson said. Later, another filmgoer told the directors that audience member on his voting ballot had graded the movie with a 3 on a scale of 5.
Wilson hopes the film is one that people can take something from regardless of their views on the practice of abortion. “This movie doesn’t encourage pro-life pro-choice shouting matches,” she said. “What we want to say is, ‘let’s treat each other respectfully and look at the real-life situations of women involved.’ ”