Austinite and film director Gretchen Stoeltje says the Texas legislature’s passage of abortion restrictions last year which effectively ban the procedure in Texas after about six weeks made her realize that now was the right time to release the documentary she’s been working on for years.
“I thought, now’s the time for this film when it can have the most, you know, can be the most helpful and effective,” Stoeltje said.
“Shouting Down Midnight” follows several women impacted or inspired by the record-breaking 2013 protests and filibuster at the Texas Capitol over abortion restrictions – including then Texas Senator Wendy Davis.
“So, of course, it’s a little bit about Wendy Davis because she did a remarkable thing and she is a remarkable person. But for me, that day was not only about realizing just how draconian our laws were becoming regarding our bodies and our ability to control our bodies, but also how exciting and inspiring it was that Texans stood up that day and used their voices and protested,” Stoeltje said.
While those 2013 efforts to block abortion restrictions eventually failed – as have efforts to block current Texas law – Stoeltje says making the film helped her redefine what it means to fail.
“Even if you didn’t achieve what you had originally set out to do, you have no idea what you may be, how your efforts may be affecting other people or effecting change in parts of the world you don’t even know about,” Stoeltje said.
Stoeltje says even as challenges to abortion access continue – including in the U.S. Supreme Court – she hopes audiences will view the film and feel some inspiration.
“I hope people come away with, like, a hunger for civic engagement, and, you know, you could even think of this film as almost a playbook for like how to peacefully participate in democracy,” Stoeltje said.
SXSW Film runs March 11-20.