Julie Bindel speaks to Jonathan Narducci, Film Director and Producer
Julie Bindel: Can you introduce yourself and why are you at this conference on surrogacy?
Jonathan Narducci: I am finishing the film that I’ve been shooting for the last two years, Ghosts of the Republic. It is basically a film that follows a gay couple from France through an international surrogacy process. They had a baby in Nevada, and felt they wanted to expand their family after getting married, wanted children, and adoption is not really a possibility in France unless you leave the country.
JB: Why didn’t they think about another way of getting children?
JN: From what I understand in France, it’s not really possible for a gay couple to adopt. They should have gone to Haiti, where a lot of gay couples go, but they also wanted a biological connection with the children.
JB: Do they feel that they have a right to a child?
JN: I think that is the question that the film is exploring. We’ve come to this thing called marriage equality, and most of the western world now has marriage equality. This word marriage has a pretty weird meaning to it, but they are married and to me that’s the beginning of a family. Now we start to bring in the idea of what reproduction rights are, which is what is being explored in the film.
JB: So they rented the womb of whom; who was their surrogate?
JN: They had a surrogate named Crystal, from Las Vegas, Nevada.
JB: Was she poor, did she need the money badly?
JN: No, she’s quite well, and what is so interesting about the film, and you’ll really have to see it to really experience it, I spent two years with these people, becoming quite intimate with them and getting to the core of the why and how. But I think at the end there was a guilt for even taking the money, they had bonded so much and redefined what their families are. But she’s not poor, she owns multiple homes in Nevada, has a job, a husband. She is what I would call a typical middle class American.
JB: She sounds to me a little like the atypical happy hooker in the sex trade, so not representative of the majority of these surrogates who do this commercially.
JN: Well the terms of the men that I followed really were set forth and dictated very strictly. They chose to come to the USA because it is a first world country and there is not this rich vs poor kind of thing. That’s a different kind of complicated issue. When talking about couples that go to Russia or India or Ukraine, the power dynamics are a lot different. But was she as well off as they are? Probably. I can’t really say if she was atypical because I have only seen a few surrogates.
I’m exploring it by not exploring it between race or socio-economics. It’s the same reason I made Love Me like that. I didn’t go to the Philippines or South America to see men go find women of a different race, that brings in a different situation… when you make a film about all white people, when the economics are all equal, it allows the audience to watch a documentary film to see themselves in the film, and these are the positions of power. So many documentaries that are made are of the white man going into brown, poor countries and watching how they are exploited. It is so trite and uncomplicated and inhuman. We all know that there are inequalities between races and between countries and that we need to address that.