Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Review: Rosita

I went to see Rosita in theHuman Rights Film Festival this weekend.

Rosita's parents were from Nicaragua, but they moved to Costa Rica to find work. Her father worked as a itinerant coffee picker, her mother sometimes joined him in the fields. Rosita didn't start school until she was seven, because the school was a long way away. When she was 8 a man, who lived on her way to school, occasionally offered her and her cousins fruit while they were walking past. One day, when she was walking home alone, he raped her.

Rosita's mother realised something was wrong and took her to the doctor's several times. Eventually the doctors told Rosita's mother that Rosita was pregnant.

The documentary Rosita is her story.

Rosita is a very well-made documentary. Despite the fact that Rosita is not shown on film (her parents' decisions - their reasons are obvious) the film-makers work hard to let her voice come through. The story is told from an oral history Rosita did with her mother, and illustrated with Rosita's drawings, which are sometimes beautifully animated.

The story would have been worthless if they hadn't worked to give Rosita a voice, because her story is one of people trying to take away her voice, her choices, and her right to self-determination.

By setting her story in its full context, by showing us the cotton plantations that her parents worked in and the effect this had on her, the film-makers show how connected our struggles for self-determination are. That freedom from sexual violence, and control of reproduction alone would not be enough for girls like Rosita.

The centre of the story is her family's struggle to get an abortion in either Nicaragua or Costa Rica, even though she was just nine years old. The rapist fades out of the film when he is sentenced to 3 months jail - demonstrating the effect of the rape on her life is so much greater than the effect on his.

There were doctors, Bishops, even government departments, who were trying to stop Rosita from having an abortion. The family had to leave Costa Rica in the middle of the night, because they were worried they would be stopped from leaving. Then they had to run out of the hospital to avoid government officials who were trying to remove her from her parents custody. Usually a Nicaraguan abortion requires authorisation from 3 doctors, in this case the Health department wanted it signed off by a committee of 16.

The attitudes of these various men (and a couple of women) were summed up by one man who said: "I said all along that it would have been better if she had died that day."

That's what we're fighting - so many of our struggles are against people, and power structures, that would rather see us dead than living our lives the way we want to.

The film had a happy ending, as much as it could have. Rosita got an abortion; her parents got some land and moved to the country. But as well as this happy ending it also offered some more hope. It ended with a conversation between the film-makers and a taxi-driver who was saying "I don't believe they should have had the abortion, abortion was wrong." The film-makers asked: "What if it was your daughter?" And the taxi-driver couldn't answer - because the right of someone you love to decide their life (and live their life - pregnancy at 9 carries huge risks) is much harder to deny. I think that compassion and that love is where we can build and organise.


  1. Anonymous7:10 pm

    This is really good and realization story for everybody. It has alot of moral values inside it. The reason is factor and the spirit of strength behind the wheel for Rosita.

  2. Anonymous6:37 am

    Unfortunately, the film left out the fact that it was the father who impregnated Rosita, and he got the help of the pro-abortion groups to cover it up, leading to a few more years of sexual abuse of Rosita, and another pregnancy.

    The father was convicted lately for his crimes.


  3. Anonymous: The film "left out that fact" because the filmmakers were not aware of it at the time. They did not "help him cover it up" because they didn't know about it. Do you honestly think that anyone would do such a thing? If Rosita's mother did, we can wish she had acted differently, but we are probably judging her actions by the standards of a different culture.

    And by the way, no matter what you right-wingers seem to believe, no one is "pro-abortion." "Yeah, abortions are great, every girl should have one! Wheeee!" *eye roll* Give me a very large break, please. We are pro-CHOICE. We believe that women and girls should have the CHOICE to either terminate a pregnancy or carry it through. That doesn't mean we like abortion. In fact, I consider myself pro-choice but against the current surgically invasive methods of termination. And I am also studying to become a doula, an assistant to women in labor and birth. Women need to be respected enough to be allowed to make their own reproductive choices.