Eva-Maria (2021)

Director: Lukas Ladner
Writer: Lukas Ladner
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Eva-Maria is spastic and so has been using a wheelchair for pretty much all of her life. Now she is in her 30s, works as an assistant, and she would like to have a child. That she doesn’t have a partner doesn’t keep her from seeking fertility treatment and attempting to have a child on her own. That’s easier said than done, though.

Eva-Maria is a nice documentary that follows its protagonist over quite a long time, making it a very personal portrait that could have touched on systemic issues a little more. But either way, it shows us what it can mean to be a disabled parent, and that is something we need to see more of, I think.

The film poster showing a drawing of a pregnant woman in an electric wheel chair.

I only realized half-way through the film that director Ladner was Eva-Maria’s assistant while she was trying to get pregnant. He had the idea of making the film while working for her and started chronicling her journey even after he quit. That means he is also present during the film and I very much liked the personal touch that stems from that particular constellation.

The film generally was very personal, following Eva-Maria very closely, focusing more on her than the barriers she faces, painting the portrait of a determined woman who goes after what she wants and makes her own way. It’s an unusual decision to have a child on your own, especially as a disabled woman in an ableist society.

Eva-Maria making a plaster cast of her pregnant belly.

But personally I found the film strongest when it does touch on the more systemic issues (that may just be my outlook as a sociologist). When Eva-Maria tries to get a subsidized apartment before the child is born but it’s not possible because on her own, she doesn’t fulfill the criteria. (She has to move back in with her parents instead.) Or when Eva-Maria’s mother talks about how the people talked about her and the sins she must have committed to have a disabled child.

Those moments are only matched by seeing Eva-Maria as a mother. We rarely to never get to see disabled parents and how they navigate parenthood. It’s wonderful to see the loving relationship Eva-Maria has with her son at the end, images that go against all of the ableist notions that persist in society. And for that alone, the film is very much worth it.

Eva-Maria lying in a treatment chair at the fertility clinic.

Summarizing: a sweet portrait with a lot of critical potential.

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