A Quiet Inquisition

The doctor who must choose between breaking the law or saving a woman's life

A Quiet Inquisition Would you break the law to save a mother's life? At a public hospital in Nicaragua, this is the ethical dilemma that faces obstetrician Dr. Carla Cerrato on a routine basis. It is one of only five countries in the world to ban abortion outright - even in cases of rape, incest, and likely maternal fatality. As hapless young mothers implore her help, and Carla's work becomes increasingly personal, the devastating impact of this law is made horrifyingly clear.
In the busy maternity ward, Dr Carla moves from bed from bed with a reassuring word for each of her patients. When one of them enters labour, she moves swiftly into action, issuing calm instructions to the nurses. For her, this is standard procedure; for the young mother, just 13, it is a situation she never planned and which potentially threatens her life. "The young ones are the most vulnerable", says Carla. Six or seven girls under the age of fourteen pass through the ward weekly, she estimates; many die from the stress of childbirth on their young bodies.

For Carla, protecting the pregnant women she works with is her highest priority. Thus when complications during pregnancy threaten the life of the mother, she advocates what's known as 'therapeutic abortion'. But the new law forbids the practice, forcing doctors to ignore the very highest order of their profession and let patients die on their watch. "Our hands are tied", says one, who fears prosecution for carrying out what he sees as a moral duty.

What is perhaps most shocking is that the party responsible for the law - the FSLN - began as a libertarian movement that came to power during the revolution. Carla was a supporter during those heady days. "My formation, my character, my personality; all of who I am was forged in the 80s". Now she feels betrayed. Defying the law and risking her career, she is determined to champion the cause of Nicaragua's women. A Quiet Inquisition presents an inspiring example of individual dissent in the face of injustice.

Laurel Special Jury Mention - Prague One World Film Festival, 2015
Laurel Official Selection - Human Rights Watch Film Festival NY 2014
Laurel Official Selection - DocsDF 2014
Laurel Official Selection - Watch Docs 2014
Laurel Official Selection - AFI Latin America 2014

The Producers

Alessandra Zeka is a Director, Producer and Cinematographer. Since founding Adrenaline Films in 1998, she has created a dynamic cinematic style wherein her subjects tell their stories compellingly and intimately. Her work often focuses on the lives of women and gender identity. Born in Spain, she currently lives in New York City.

Holen Sabrina Kahn is an award winning filmmaker and visual artist whose work creatively explores ethical acts and ideas of individual agency. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was a research fellow at Yale University's Genocide Studies Program, and studio Fellow at the Whitney Museum's Independent study program. Holen has also worked extensively as an editor, producer and post supervisor.

Making The Film

We knew we wanted to tell the story in a non-polemical way and that we wanted to focus on a routine gynecological doctor, rather than an abortion provider. We were immediately drawn in by Dr. Carla's personality and openness, as well as her world, and the microcosm of the hospital where she works. It became clear to us that the story of the prohibition's impact and the complicated layers of politics and religion could be told through her personal experiences of being caught between a law with no possibility of movement and the Hippocratic oath to which she had sworn. The bravery of Dr. Carla cannot be underestimated.

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