I was expecting a lot of pain, screams, and disturbing images that would hunt me at night, but A Quiet Inquisition, the opening film of the Document Human Rights Film Festival at CCA, was actually quite the opposite. This documentary by American filmmakers Alessandra Zeka and Holen Kahn offered an almost analytical journey into the costs of the new abortion law for the lives of women and girls in Nicaragua.
The independently produced documentary, which tells the story of the courageous doctor Carla Cerrato who chooses to break the law in order to save lives, was shot at a public hospital in the capital Managua without the knowledge of the authorities. Since 2006, Nicaragua has been one of only five countries in the world to deny women the right to abortion even when their life is severely endangered. According to the documentary, 88 deaths that could have been prevented were registered in that year alone.
The scenes are very intimate and very real, with girls as young as 13 weeping and embarrassed about telling Dr Cerrato the details of their pregnancies. Another young girl speaks openly about being raped at the age of 7, and when 27 year old Amalia looks up in the sky to stop herself from bursting into tears while saying that she has been diagnosed with cancer, there were goose bumps going up my back. Doctors denied Amalia cancer treatment because she was pregnant at the time of diagnosis and any treatment could affect the foetus. Her sisters mobilised a campaign to raise awareness, but too late to save her. A year later she is dead.
What shines through in the entire film is the sort of crazy optimism shared by both Dr Cerrato and her patients. Even if the political situation is not likely to change in the near future, there is still hope. With a lot of its running time dedicated to deep ethical reflection and questioning how much it costs an individual to do the right thing, the film has a scope beyond its setting Nicaraguan setting. In the end of the documentary, Dr Cerrato and her staff decide to take that cost upon them.