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Review: Stray Bodies


- Elina Psykou’s first documentary feature sets out on traumatic pilgrimages around Europe, following four women on the thorny paths of so-called “medical tourism”

Review: Stray Bodies

A film that questions concepts, rather than providing ready-made answers, is always something to be treasured, but in her thought-provoking documentary Stray Bodies [+see also:
interview: Elina Psykou
film profile
, Elina Psykou goes one step further by fostering an in-depth debate between polar-opposite positions. Should abortion laws be imposed in Malta, and should in-vitro procedures for single women be allowed in Italy? Could euthanasia be considered a universal human right? Fierce opponents clash indirectly on religious, scientific and simply humanistic terms, via the use of montage in a somewhat surrealist setting, hopping between hospitals, airports, churches and private, intimate spaces.

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It is no coincidence that Stray Bodies’ poster, featuring a crucified woman on display, sparked riots in front of the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival’s emblematic Olympion Cinema, where the film has just celebrated its world premiere in the International Competition. These are subjects on which unanimous consensus may never be reached.

Four European women head down the thorny paths of so-called “medical tourism” in pursuit of bodily autonomy and the realisation of their deep-seated desires. Young Maltese Robin seeks to terminate an unwanted pregnancy resulting from a one-night stand. Single Italians Katarina and Gaia pursue assisted reproduction to fulfil their aspirations of motherhood, turning to services in Greece owing to legal restrictions in their home country. Concurrently, a Greek woman, having witnessed her mother's agonising final days, explores euthanasia options in Switzerland as a means of addressing her trauma and finding solace in the possibility of a peaceful death when her own time comes. Amidst their shared reflections and experiences, the perspectives of various experts are added in, leaving no truth unexamined. This narrative serves as a reminder that abortion, despite its liberating concept, is always a difficult decision for women, and some doctors may feel conflicted or personally horrified about performing it. In-vitro fertilisation, though seemingly innocuous, can involve the application of eugenic principles to select the “best” embryos. Similarly, while euthanasia may alleviate suffering, there remains a perceived sense of soullessness in the pragmatism of the procedure – something that is not explicitly discussed in the film, but is more of a feeling that creeps in between frames.

Democracy means opening the floor up to all kinds of opinions, no matter if they sound “right” or “wrong”, and Psykou, as a successor of the ancient culture that brought the democratic concept to Europe, proudly defends it. In this regard, Stray Bodies is anything but an activist movie, since it does indeed admit controversial statements from both left- and right-wingers, while prompting further considerations in viewers’ minds and letting them form their own viewpoints. Furthermore, despite the fact that the film seems to suggest that all of these special medical procedures should be introduced as a universal human right, the auteur does not turn a blind eye to the fact that interference with the natural laws is highly monetised, and serious business interests are involved. And while everyone's right to decide on matters of their own body is undeniable in today's predominantly secular society, the luxury of exercising this right still comes at a high price.

Stray Bodies was produced by Greece’s Jungle Films, Switzerland’s Contrast Film, Italy’s Doclab and Bulgaria’s Red Carpet, in co-production with Anemon, Frenel, Long Run Productions, ΕRΤ and RSI - Radiotelevisione Svizzera. Cinephil handles its international sales.

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