A Mother's Dream

A powerful insight into India's commercial baby surrogate industry

A Mother's Dream Making babies is big business in India. The Akanksha clinic is the largest outfit producing infants for clients, often foreigners, who can't conceive themselves. For the women who get pregnant on demand it's a way of escaping poverty but it's still deeply traumatic. Intimate narratives chart the aspirations and fears of client and surrogate. A sensitive but powerful obdoc exposing the emotional hurdles involved in breaking the laws of Mother Nature.

"Come on, darling, say goodbye with a smile" Papiha is told. She's a surrogate mother, paid to produce babies. She gave birth to twins just 3 weeks before. Now the new parents have arrived and Papiha is visibly upset. An emotional attachment only a mother and baby can form, is about to be broken. The future parents misleadingly say, "you will see them everyday, come to our hotel". It's a knowing lie, for the only connection Papiha has with the twins she gave birth to, are hotel phone numbers, which will soon become irrelevant.

"You know that it belongs to someone else. So you don't let yourself feel anything. You keep telling yourself that the child isn't yours", confides Parul, describing how she battles the pain of giving up a child. For others this level of stoicism doesn't come so easy. "Let's keep the babies", Papiha's mother says towards the end of the pregnancy. "Even if I dream about it, it is only a dream", replies Papiha. Not only is the process emotionally draining, but in a nation where the family is the heart, surrogacy is a "stigma". So for 9 months a year these women are hidden from society, in a business of birth.

"Government does not provide housing, food or medicine to poor people", explains Dr Patel. Surrogacy is often one of few options left to women in India's patriarchal society. Many have suffered trauma in the past. "He beat up the kids and me. I didn't want to live any more", confides Parul. Heena was forced into an unhappy marriage before she had her "first period", and Nisha only sees her kids once a month.

The complicated post-modern cycle of life is laid bare in this dauntless documentary. Exploring the birth cycle through the lives of women who care for their babies, only to have them taken away. We are left questioning how strong a woman must be to go through so much, all for another mother's dream.


LaurelFirst Steps Awards Nominee Best Documentary 2013, Germany
LaurelVictor Alexis Thalberg Award 2013, Switzerland
LaurelDokfest Munich Speed Pitch Award 2010, Germany
LaurelVisions du Reel 2013, Switzerland
LaurelFestroia Film Festival 2013, Portugal
LaurelMessage to Man Festival 2013, Russia
LaurelVancouver International Film Festival 2013, Canada
Laurel30th Kasseler Dokfest 2013, Germany
LaurelFilm Festival Max Ophüls 2014
LaurelSolothurner Filmtage 2014

The Producers

Valerie Gudenus is an Austrian filmmaker who is currently based in Switzerland. She discovered her passion for film and video after studying graphic design, working on animations, music videos and a short doc. Ma Na Sapna – A Mother’s Dream is her second feature documentary.

Making The Film

Making this film has been an incredibly intense and enriching experience. When I first met the surrogate mothers in Anand, I remember being immensely touched and impressed by the sheer strength and courage these women muster every day of their lives. I realised that my film would have to tell their personal stories, and by doing so, talk about the value of women and the value of life in general. Recent events in India have again shown the need to tell stories like these. I hope to pass on the voices and the experiences of these women to reflect on the inequality and the co-dependence of today’s civilizations.

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