Aftershock – Sundance 2022

Shawnee Benton Gibson and Bruce McIntyre appear in Aftershock by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Kerwin Devonish.

Aftershock is among the most heartbreaking documentaries that any audience will watch when the film is eventually released.

The U.S. maternal health system is in a crisis. Perhaps you’ve heard of it and perhaps you did not. In any event, this documentary brings the crisis directly to you for the better part of almost 90 minutes. It’s unfortunate because the United States is among the most industrialized nations in the world. We should not have to have this crisis let alone the racial disparity. Sadly, Black women are more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts. But if a Black man were to dare raise his voice at a nurse or reception, he is automatically seen as a threat. It should not have to be this way. Whatever happened to “First, do no harm.”

Co-directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follow Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac’s surviving family members. This is in addition to activists, birth-workers, and physicians. Initial filming started before the pandemic as Shamony Gibson died in fall 2019. Following Amber’s death in April 2020, Omari Maynard reached out to Bruce McIntyre. It isn’t just their bonding over being single fathers but there’s this entire community of people in a similar situation. For Paula Eiselt, this film is personal because of her own experiences with pregnancy complications. But it’s her experience that draw her to make films about women’s healthcare. If you haven’t seen 93Queen, it is currently streaming on HBO Max. Similarly, Tonya Lewis Lee brings her own experiences to the table as an advocate for better births and women’s health equity.

I know it’s a cliché to say that Aftershock is one of the most important documentaries of the year but it’s true. If you don’t follow medical news or the right journalists, there’s a good bet that you wouldn’t even know that this is a crisis. Aftershock is just one voice in the fight for birth justice and systemic change but it’s an important one.

DIRECTORS: Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee
FEATURING: Shawnee Benton Gibson, Bruce McIntyre, Omari Maynard

Aftershock holds its world premiere during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.