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‘A machine for recreating life’: an introduction to reproduction on film



Reproduction is one of the most persistently generative themes in the history of science and cinema. Cabbage fairies, clones and monstrous creations have fascinated filmmakers and audiences for more than a century. Today we have grown accustomed not only to the once controversial portrayals of sperm, eggs and embryos in biology and medicine, but also to the artificial wombs and dystopian futures of science fiction and fantasy. Yet, while scholars have examined key films and genres, especially in response to the recent cycle of Hollywood ‘mom coms’, the analytic potential of reproduction on film as a larger theme remains largely untapped. This introduction to a special issue aims to consolidate a disparate literature by exploring diverse strands of film studies that are rarely considered in the same frame. It traces the contours of a little-studied history, pauses to consider in greater detail a few particularly instructive examples, and underscores some promising lines of inquiry. Along the way, it introduces the six original articles that constitute Reproduction on Film.

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1 For a recent exploration of reproduction as it relates to communication technologies see Hopwood, Nick, Jones, Peter Murray, Kassell, Lauren and Secord, Jim (eds.), Communicating Reproduction, a special issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (2015) 89, pp. 379556 . For a broader survey of the field see Hopwood, Nick, Flemming, Rebecca and Kassell, Lauren (eds.), Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018 .

2 Julien Duvivier and Henry Lepage's French film was first released in 1924, and rereleased as an updated version in 1933. In French, the title is La machine à refaire la vie; the standard translation in English has refaire as ‘re-create’.

3 On genetics and eugenics in film see Pernick, Martin, The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of ‘Defective’ Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996 ; Kirby, David A., ‘The new eugenics in cinema: genetic determinism and gene therapy in GATTACA ’, Science Fiction Studies (2000) 27, pp. 193215 ; Kirby, , ‘The devil in our DNA: a brief history of eugenics in science fiction films’, Literature and Medicine (2007) 26, pp. 83108 ; Stacey, Jackie, The Cinematic Life of the Gene, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010 ; and Smith, Angela M., Hideous Progeny: Disability, Eugenics, and Classic Horror Cinema, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011 . On sex education in film see Eberwein, Robert, Sex Ed: Film, Video, and the Framework of Desire, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999 ; Schwarz, Uta, ‘ Helga (1967): West German sex education and the cinema in the 1960s’, in Sauerteig, Lutz D.H. and Davidson, Roger (eds.), Shaping Sexual Knowledge: A Cultural History of Sex Education in Twentieth-Century Europe, London: Routledge, 2009, pp. 197213 ; Elisabet Björklund, ‘The most delicate subject: a history of sex education films in Sweden’, PhD thesis, Lund University, 2012; Parry, Manon, Broadcasting Birth Control: Mass Media and Family Planning, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013 ; Anita Winker, ‘Biology, morality and gender: East and West German sex education in films, 1945–70’, PhD thesis, Durham, 2014; and Bonah, Christian and Laukötter, Anja (eds.), Screening Diseases: Films on Sex Hygiene in Germany and France in the First Half of the 20th Century, a special issue of Gesnerus (2015) 72, pp. 593 .

4 See, for example, Nash, Meredith, Making ‘Postmodern’ Mothers: Pregnant Embodiment, Baby Bumps and Body Image, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 ; and Peterson, Joyce, ‘Baby M: American feminists respond to a controversial case’, Journal of Women's History (2016) 28, pp. 103125 .

5 See Modleski, Tania, ‘Three men and Baby M’, Camera Obscura (1986) 6, pp. 6881 ; Desjardins, Mary, ‘ Baby Boom: the comedy of surrogacy in film and television’, Velvet Light Trap (1992) 29, pp. 2130 ; and Kaplan, E. Ann, ‘Look who's talking, indeed: fetal images in recent North American visual culture’, in Glenn, Evelyn Nakano, Chang, Grace and Forcey, Linda Rennie (eds.), Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency, New York: Routledge, 1994, pp. 121137 .

6 Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack, ‘Fetal images: the power of visual culture in the politics of reproduction’, Feminist Studies (1987) 13, pp. 263292 ; and Taylor, Jennifer, ‘The public foetus and the family car: from abortion politics to a Volvo advertisement’, Public Culture (1992) 4, pp. 6780 .

7 See Parenting and Reproduction, a special issue of Velvet Light Trap (1992) 29, pp. 165 ; Kaplan, E. Ann, Motherhood and Representation: The Mother in Popular Culture and Melodrama, London: Routledge, 1992 ; Bassin, Donna, Honey, Margaret and Kaplan, Meryle Mahrer (eds.), Representations of Motherhood, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994 ; and Fischer, Lucy, Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996 . A somewhat earlier influential example is Williams, Linda, ‘“Something else besides a mother”: Stella Dallas and the maternal melodrama’, Cinema Journal (1984) 24, pp. 227 .

8 See Addison, Heather, Goodwin-Kelly, Mary Kate and Roth, Elaine (eds.), Motherhood Misconceived: Representing the Maternal in U.S. Films, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009 ; Nusser, Tanja, ‘Wie sonst das Zeugen Mode war’: Reproduktionstechnologien in Literatur und Film, Berlin: Rombach, 2011 ; Oliver, Kelly, Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012 ; Boswell, Parley Ann, Pregnancy in Literature and Film, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014 ; and Jenkins, Claire, Home Movies: The American Family in Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, London: I.B. Tauris, 2015 .

9 On the history of film, models and images as visual technologies of science communication see de Chadarevian, Soraya and Hopwood, Nick (eds.), Models: The Third Dimension of Science , Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004 ; Pauwels, Luc (ed.), Visual Cultures of Science: Rethinking Representational Practices in Knowledge Building and Science Communication , Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2006 ; Boon, Timothy, Films of Fact: A History of Science in Documentary Films and Television, London: Wallflower, 2008 ; Kirby, David A., Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011 ; Curtis, Scott, The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany, New York: Columbia University Press, 2015 ; Gaycken, Oliver, Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015 ; Hopwood, Nick, Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015 ; and Sappol, Michael, Body Modern: Fritz Kahn, Scientific Illustration, and the Homuncular Subject, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017 .

10 See Tosi, Virgilio, Cinema before Cinema: The Origins of Scientific Cinematography, London: British Universities Film and Video Council, 2005 .

11 For postcards as they relate to early film see Rabinovitz, Lauren, Electric Dreamland: Amusement Parks, Movies, and American Modernity, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, pp. 96134 .

12 See Véron, Jacques and Rohrbasser, Jean-Marc, Bébés, familles et cartes postales de 1900 à 1950, Paris: Ined, 2015 ; for an analysis of the German tradition see Benninghaus, Christina, ‘“No, thank you, Mr Stork!”: voluntary childlessness in Weimar and contemporary Germany’, Studies in the Maternal (2014) 6, pp. 136 , available at

13 For postcard landscapes and scenes as they relate to film see Peterson, Jennifer Lynn, Education in the School of Dreams: Travelogues and Early Nonfiction Film, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013 .

14 Gaines, Jane M., ‘Of cabbages and authors’, in Bean, Jennifer M. and Negra, Diane (eds.), A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema , Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 88118 ; and Gaines, , ‘First fictions’, Signs (2004) 30, pp. 12931317 .

15 See McMahan, Alison, Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visonary of the Cinema, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, p. 39. For essays on Guy and other women pioneers of early cinema see Gaines, Jane, Vatsal, Radha and Dall'Asta, Monica (eds.), Women Film Pioneers Project , Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, New York: Columbia University Libraries, 2013 , available at

16 See, for example, Braun, Marta, Keil, Charles, King, Rob, Moore, Paul and Pelletier, Louis (eds.), Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks, and Publics of Early Cinema , New Barnet: John Libbey, 2016 . For a recent review of early cinema as it relates to science see Olszynko-Gryn, Jesse, ‘Film lessons: early cinema for historians of science’, BJHS (2016) 49, pp. 279286 .

17 See Gunning, Tom, ‘“Primitive” cinema: a frame-up? Or the trick's on us’, Cinema Journal (1989) 28, pp. 312 ; and Higgins, Scott, ‘The silent screen, 1895–1927: editing’, in Keil, Charlie and Whissel, Kristen (eds.), Editing and Special/Visual Effects , New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016, pp. 2236 .

18 The film Artistic Creation and dozens more as well as ‘Robert Paul: time traveller’, a historical essay by Ian Christie, are included with the DVD RW Paul: The Collected Films, 1895–1980, London: BFI, 2006. See also Christie, Ian, ‘The visible and the invisible: from “tricks” to “effects”’, Early Popular Visual Culture (2015) 13, pp. 105112 ; and Cook, Malcolm, ‘The lightning cartoon: animation from music hall to cinema’, Early Popular Visual Culture (2013) 11, pp. 237254 .

19 Pernick, op. cit. (3), p. 51; Doan, Laura, ‘Sex education and the Great War soldier: a queer analysis of the practice of “hetero” sex’, Journal of British Studies (2012) 51, pp. 641663 . Whatsoever a Man Soweth is available on DVD in the landmark collection of British sex education films, The Birds and the Bees, London: BFI, 2009 (originally titled The Joy of Sex Education).

20 See Shail, Andrew (ed.), Cinema's Second Birth , a special issue of Early Popular Visual Culture (2013) 2, pp. 97177 .

21 Pernick, op. cit. (3), p. 123.

22 See Pernick, op. cit. (3), p. 130. On Porter, who made films for the prolific Edison company, see Musser, Charles, Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991 .

23 On incubator shows see Silverman, William A., ‘Incubator-baby side shows’, Pediatrics (1979) 2, pp. 127141 ; Pernick, op. cit. (3), pp. 54, 112. On hydrotherapy see Weisz, George, ‘Spas, mineral waters, and hydrological science in twentieth-century France’, Isis (2001) 93, pp. 451483 .

24 See Dym, Jeffrey A., Benshi, Japanese Silent Film Narrators, and Their Forgotten Narrative Art of Setsumei: A History of Japanese Silent Film Narration, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003 .

25 See Graffy, Julian, Bed and Sofa, London: I.B. Tauris, 2001 . On abortion in Soviet Russia see Goldman, Wendy Z., ‘Women, abortion and the state, 1917–36’, in Clements, Barbara Evans, Engel, Barbara Alpern and Worobec, Christine D. (eds.), Russia's Women: Accommodation, Resistance, Transformation, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, pp. 243266 . On the history of abortion in film and television see Press, Andrea L. and Cole, Elizabeth R., Speaking of Abortion: Television and Authority in the Lives of Women, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999 ; von Keitz, Ursula, Im Schatten des Gesetzes: Schwangerschaftskonflikt und Reproduktion im deutschsprachigen Film 1918 bis 1933, Marburg: Schüren, 2005 ; Heather MacGibbon, ‘The abortion narrative in American film: 1900–2000’, PhD thesis, New York University, 2007; Fran Bigman, ‘“Nature's a wily dame”: abortion in British literature and film, 1907–1967’, PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2014; Megan Lynn Minarich, ‘Hollywood's reproduction code: regulating contraception and abortion in American cinema, 1915–1952’, PhD thesis, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, 2014; Sisson, Gretchen and Kimport, Katrina, ‘Telling stories about abortion: abortion-related plots in American film and television, 1916–2013’, Contraception (2014) 89, pp. 413418 ; and Kinoshita, Chika, ‘Something more than a seduction story: Shiga Akiko's abortion scandal and late 1930s Japanese film culture’, Feminist Media Histories (2015) 1, pp. 2963 .

26 Roberts, Graham, The Man with the Movie Camera, London: I.B. Tauris, 2000, p. 70 .

27 Eisenstein, Sergei, Disney, Berlin: Potemkin Press, 2013 .

28 See Laukötter, Anja, ‘Listen and watch: the practice of lecturing and the epistemological status of sex education films in Germany’, Gesnerus (2015) 72, pp. 5676 .

29 Quoted in Nesbet, Anne, Savage Junctures: Sergei Eisenstein and the Shape of Thinking, London: I.B. Tauris, 2003, p. 140 .

30 Nesbet, op. cit. (29), p. 142.

31 Eisenstein, op. cit. (27), p. 117. In Ernst Haeckel's then widely discussed theory of evolution, initially formless embryos climbed the ‘ladder of evolution’ in the womb. See Hopwood, op. cit. (9).

32 See, for example, Beckmann, Karen (ed.), Animating Film Theory, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014 .

33 Michaelis, Anthony R., Research Films in Biology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Medicine, New York: Academic Press, 1955, p. 85 . For the classic critique of the ‘male’ sperm as active and the ‘female’ egg as passive see Martin, Emily, ‘The egg and the sperm: how science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male–female roles’, Signs (1991) 16, pp. 485501 .

34 Michaelis, op. cit. (33), p. 117. For time-lapse as it relates to botanical research and Darwinism see Gaycken, Oliver, ‘The secret life of plants: visualizing vegetative movement, 1880–1903’, Early Popular Visual Culture (2012) 10, pp. 5169 ; Gaycken, , ‘Early cinema and evolution’, in Lightman, Bernhard V. and Zon, Bennett (eds.), Evolution in Victorian Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 94120 .

35 Hopwood, Nick, ‘Visual standards and disciplinary change: normal plates, tables and stages in embryology’, History of Science (2005) 43, pp. 239303 . See also the online resource: Tatjana Buklijas and Nick Hopwood, Making Visible Embryos (2008–2010; last reviewed 2014), at

36 See Braun, Marta, Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992 ; Prodger, Philip, Time Stands Still: Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003 ; Solnit, Rebecca, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, New York: Viking, 2003 ; and Braun, Marta, Eadweard Muybridge, London: Reaktion Books, 2010 .

37 See Landecker, Hannah, ‘The life of movement: from microcinematography to live-cell imaging’, Journal of Visual Culture (2012) 11, pp. 378399 ; and Oliver Gaycken, ‘“A living, developing egg is present before you”: animation, scientific visualization, and modeling’, in Beckmann, op. cit. (32), pp. 68–81.

38 Ries quoted in translation in Kelty, Christopher and Landecker, Hannah, ‘A theory of animation: cells, L-systems, and film’, Grey Room (2004) 17, pp. 3063 , 37.

39 See Landecker, Hannah, ‘The Lewis films: tissue culture and “living anatomy,” 1919–1940’, in Maienschein, Jane, Glitz, Marie and Allen, Garland E. (eds.), Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, vol. 5: The Department of Embryology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 117144 ; and Ostherr, Kirsten, ‘Animating informatics: scientific discovery through documentary film’, in Jahusz, Alexandra and Lebow, Alisa (eds.), A Companion to Contemporary Documentary Film, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2015, pp. 280297 .

40 Michaelis, op. cit. (33), pp. 115–117.

41 Michaelis, op. cit. (33), p. 117.

42 Morgan, Lynn M., Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009, p. 200 . See further Wilson, Emily K., ‘Ex utero: live human fetal research and the films of Davenport Hooker’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine (2014) 88, pp. 132160 . Hooker's 1952 film is available via the Wellcome Library's ‘reproduction’ playlist at

43 Maverick surgeon Eugene Louis Doyen began filming in the operating theatre as early as 1898. See Thierry Lefebvre, La chair et le celluloïd: Le cinéma chirurgical du docteur Doyen, Paris: J. Doyen, 2004.

44 Foreign letters: Paris’, Journal of the American Medical Association (December 1921) 77(24), pp. 20712072 .

45 Our discussion builds on the analysis of wax models as they relate to print media and pedagogy in Nick Hopwood, ‘Plastic publishing in embryology’, in de Chadarevian and Hopwood, op. cit. (9), pp. 170–206. See further Hopwood, Embryos in Wax: Models from the Ziegler Studio, with a Reprint of ‘Embryological Wax Models’ by Friedrich Ziegler, Cambridge: Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 2012 .

46 See Orgeron, Devin, Orgeron, Marsha and Streible, Dan (eds.), Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 ; and Wasson, Haidee, ‘Electric homes! Automatic movies! Efficient entertainment! 16 mm and cinema's domestication in the 1920s’, Cinema Journal (2009) 48, pp. 121 .

47 New York University Film Library, A Catalogue of Selected 16 mm. Educational Motion Pictures, New York: NYU, 1950, pp. 8081 .

48 NYUFL, op. cit. (47), p. 139.

49 On British film censors and contraception see Kuhn, Annette, ‘The “Married Love” affair’, Screen (1986) 27, pp. 521 ; Kuhn, , Cinema, Censorship and Sexuality, 1909–1925, New York: Routledge, 1988 ; and Borge, Jessica, ‘Propagating progress and circumventing harm: reconciling references to contraceptives in British television and cinema of the 1960s’, in Maierhofer, Waltraud and Capo, Beth Widmaier (eds.), Reproductive Rights Issues in Popular Media: International Perspectives, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017, pp. 1128 .

50 Schaefer, Eric, “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!”: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919–1959, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999, p. 8 . On stag films and pornography see Williams, Linda, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and ‘Frenzy of the Visible’, London: Pandora, 1990 .

51 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), pp. 2–5.

52 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), p. 6.

53 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), pp. 106–107.

54 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), p. 188.

55 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), p. 190.

56 Sartain, Geraldine, ‘The cinema explodes the stork myth’, Journal of Educational Sociology (1938) 12, pp. 142146, 144. The Birth of a Nation (1915), a controversial landmark of American cinema, dramatized the origins of the KKK. See Stokes, Melvyn, D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation: A History of ‘The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time’, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008 .

57 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), p. 190. See also Strassfeld, Benjamin, ‘A difficult delivery: debating the function of the screen and educational cinema through The Birth of a Baby (1938)’, Velvet Light Trap (2013) 72, pp. 4457 .

58 Schaefer, op. cit. (50), p. 191.

59 Ostherr, Kirsten, Medical Visions: Producing the Patient through Film, Television, and Imaging Technologies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 117 .

60 Schreiber, Flora Rheta, ‘New York: a cinema capital’, Quarterly of Film, Radio and Television (1953) 7, pp. 264273, 266.

61 On Hammid, Deren and their cat film see Anděl, Jaroslav, Alexandr Hackenschmied, Prague: Torst, 2000 ; Rhodes, John David, Meshes of the Afternoon, London: BFI and Palgrave, 2011 ; and Galt, Rosalind, ‘Cats and the moving image’, in Lawrence, Michael and McMahon, Laura (eds.), Animal Life and the Moving Image, London: BFI and Palgrave, 2015, pp. 4257 .

62 Omasta, Michael and Hammid, Alexander, ‘“The rest is more or less routine stuff”: Michael Omasta in correspondence with Alexander Hammid, Vienna/New York (Sept. 2001–Jan. 2002)’, in Omasta, Michael (ed.), Tribute to Sasha: Das filmische Werk von Alexander Hammid, Vienna: Synema, 2002, pp. 157176, 171.

63 Amos Vogel, ‘Program notes (Cinema 16, September 1948)’, in Omasta, op. cit. (62), p. 209.

64 Vogel, op. cit. (63), p. 209.

65 ‘The private life of a cat’, Popular Photography (April 1947) 20, p. 130.

66 Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976, p. 262.

67 Omasta and Hammid, op. cit. (62), p. 171.

68 See Osterweil, Ara, Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014 .

69 Brakhage's second of five childbirth films, Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961), was much more experimental and abstract. See Barr, William R., ‘Brakhage: artistic development in two childbirth films’, Film Quarterly (1976) 29, pp. 3034 ; and Shira Segal, ‘Home movies and home birth: the avant-garde childbirth film and pregnancy in new media’, PhD thesis, Indiana University, 2011.

70 Ostherr, op. cit. (59), p. 120.

71 Ostherr, op. cit. (59), p. 124.

72 Mekas, Jonas, ‘Recollections of Stan Brakhage’, in James, David E. (ed.), Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2005, pp. 107112, 107. The review was not, in fact, published at the time.

73 Mekas, op. cit. (72), p.107.

74 Carolee Schneemann, ‘It is painting’, in James, op. cit. (72), pp. 78–87, 83.

75 See Vogel, op. cit. (66), pp. 258–262; Robin Blaetz (ed.), Women's Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007; and Segal, op. cit. (69).

76 Amiel, Mireille, ‘Agnès Varda talks about cinema’, in Kline, T. Jefferson (ed.), Agnès Varda: Interviews, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014, pp. 6477, 74.

77 MacDonald, Scott, A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, p. 182 .

78 Hoberman, J., ‘The Super-80s’, Film Comment (1981) 17, pp. 3943, 42. On sound recordings of childbirth see Michaels, Paula, ‘The sounds and sights of natural childbirth: films and records in antenatal preparation classes, 1950s–1980s’, Social History of Medicine (2017), Advance Access, doi: 10.1093/shm/hkw119.

79 Taubin, Amy, ‘Discussion between Marjorie Keller and Amy Taubin’, Idiolects (1978) 6, pp. 2831, 28; quoted in Samer, Roxanne, ‘Re-conceiving Misconception: birth as a site of filmic experimentation’, Jump Cut (Summer 2011) 53 , at

80 Schneemann, op. cit. (74), p. 83.

81 Interview with Haug, Kate in Wide Angle (1977) 20, pp. 2049, 23; republished in Schneemann, Carolee, Imaging Her Erotics: Essays, Interviews, Projects, Cambridge, MA: Press, MIT, 2002 .

82 Ostherr, op. cit. (59), p. 125; and Jackson, Lynne, ‘The production of George Stoney's film All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story (1952)’, Film History (1987) 1, pp. 367392 .

83 On the history of film studies see Zryd, Michael, ‘Experimental film and the development of film study in America’, in Grieveson, Lee and Wasson, Haidee (eds.), Inventing Film Studies, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008 .

84 MacDonald, Scott (ed.), A Critical Cinema 4: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005, pp. 6263 .

85 Osterweil, op. cit. (68), pp. 101–102.

86 See Tyler, Imogen and Clements, Jessica, ‘The taboo aesthetics of the birth scene’, Feminist Review (2009) 93, pp. 134137 .

87 MacDonald, op. cit. (84), p. 68, original emphasis. For Jane's perspective see Brakhage, Jane, ‘The birth film’, in Sitney, P. Adams (ed.), Film Culture Reader, York, New: Praeger, 1970, pp. 230233 .

88 See Reagan, Leslie, Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010 ; and Parker, Clare, ‘From immorality to public health: thalidomide and the debate for legal abortion in Australia’, Social History of Medicine (2012) 25, pp. 863880 .

89 See Reed, Richard K., Birthing Fathers: The Transformation of Men in American Rites of Birth, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005 ; and Leavitt, Judith Walzer, Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009 . For the British history see King, Laura, ‘Hiding in the pub to cutting the cord? Men's presence at childbirth in Britain c.1940s–2000’, Social History of Medicine (2017) 30, pp. 389407 .

90 For example, Shapiro, Jerome F., Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film, London: Routledge, 2002 ; on ‘monster movies’ see Tudor, Andrew, Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie, Oxford: Blackwell, 1989 .

91 Brakhage ‘always enjoyed going to the movies, sometimes explaining the recreation as a means of staying in touch with the culture at large’. David E. James, ‘Introduction’, in James, op. cit. (72), pp. 1–19, 15.

92 See, for example, Levine, Elana, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007 ; Williams, Linda, Screening Sex, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008 ; and Schaefer, Eric, Sex Scene: Media and the Sexual Revolution, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014 .

93 See Lay, Samantha, British Social Realism: From Documentary to Brit-Grit, London: Wallflower, 2002 ; Leigh, Jacob, The Cinema of Ken Loach: Art in the Service of the People, London: Wallflower, 2002 ; and Bigman, op. cit. (25).

94 See Waltraud Maierhofer, ‘Finding humor in birth control: fiction and film from Hugh Mills to Matthias Schweighhöfer’, in Maierhofer and Capo, op. cit. (49), pp. 136–155. Artificial insemination inspired Test Tube Babies (1948), an American exploitation film, and A Question of Adultery (1958), an X-rated British film based on the stage play A Breach of Marriage (1948), as well as more recent films. See Schaefer, op. cit. (50), pp. 206–208; and Fitzpatrick, Peter, The Two Frank Thrings, Victoria: Monash University Publishing, 2012, pp. 401403 .

95 Jülich, Solveig, ‘The making of a best-selling book on reproduction: Lennart Nilsson's A Child Is Born ’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine (2015) 89, pp. 491525 .

96 On evolution in 2001 see Fry, Carrol, ‘From technology to transcendence: humanity's evolutionary journey in 2001: A Space Odyssey ’, Extrapolation (2003) 44, pp. 331343 ; and Poole, Robert, ‘ 2001: A Space Odyssey and the dawn of man’, in Ljujic, Tatjana, Kramer, Peter and Daniels, Richard (eds.), Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives, London: Black Dog Press, 2014, pp. 174197 .

97 Fischer, Lucy, ‘Birth traumas: parturition and horror in Rosemary's Baby ’, Cinema Journal (1992) 31, pp. 318 ; Hoffman, A. Robin, ‘How to see the horror: the hostile fetus in Rosemary's Baby and Alien ’, Literature Interpretation Theory (2011) 22, pp. 239261 ; and Oliver, op. cit. (8), pp. 117–126.

98 On the grassroots campaign against Z.P.G. (1972), a science fiction film about overpopulation that seemed to promote the right to procreate at any cost to the environment, see Jesse Olszynko-Gryn and Patrick Ellis, ‘Malthus at the movies: science, cinema, and activism around Z.P.G. and Soylent Green’, Cinema Journal, forthcoming 2018. On Histoires d'A (1973), an initially banned ‘militant’ documentary about abortion that sparked protest at Cannes, see Lecler, Romain, ‘Le succès d’Histoires d'A, “film sur l'avortement”: Une mobilisation croisée de ressources cinématographiques et militantes (enquête)’, Terrains & travaux (2007) 2, pp. 5172 ; and Fleckinger, Hélène, ‘ Histoires d'A: Un moment de la lutte pour la liberté de l'avortement’, La revue documentaire (2010) 22–23, pp. 181195 .

99 On Silent Scream see Dubow, Sara, Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 153, 159160 , 164. On IVF documentaries in the 1980s see Sarah Franklin, ‘Postmodern procreation: a cultural account of assisted reproduction’, in Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp (eds.), Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, pp. 323–345. Documentary footage of the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first child conceived by IVF, can be viewed at See further Dow, Katie, ‘Looking into the test-tube: the birth of IVF on British television’, in Olszynko-Gryn, Jesse and Rusterholz, Caroline (eds.), Reproductive Politics in France and Britain, a special issue of Medical History, forthcoming 2018.

100 Robbins, Helen W., ‘“More human than I am alone”: womb envy in David Cronenberg's The Fly and Dead Ringers ’, in Cohan, Steven and Hark, Ina Rae (eds.), Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema, London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 134150 .

101 O'Riordan, Kate, ‘Human cloning in film: horror, ambivalence, hope’, Science as Culture (2008) 17, pp. 145162 . See further Haran, Joan, Kitzinger, Jenny, McNeil, Maureen and O'Riordan, Kate, Human Cloning in the Media: From Science Fiction to Science Practice, London: Routledge, 2007 ; and Franklin, Sarah, Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007 .

102 Bodelson, Amery, ‘Redemptive restrooms: moments of utopic possibility in Volker Schlöndorff's film version of The Handmaid's Tale ’, Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association (2006) 39, pp. 6372 ; Latimer, Heather, “Bio-reproductive futurism: bare life and the pregnant refugee in Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men ’, Social Text (2011) 29, pp. 5172 ; and Sparling, Nicole L., ‘Without a conceivable future: figuring the mother in Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men ’, Frontiers (2014) 35, pp. 160180 .

103 Leavitt, op. cit. (89), pp. 1–7; and Ziv Eisenberg, ‘The whole nine months: women, men, and the making of modern pregnancy in America’, PhD thesis, Yale University Press, 2013, pp. 262–331.

104 See Mamo, Laura, Queering Reproduction: Achieving Pregnancy in the Age of Technoscience, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007 ; and Brooks, Jodi, ‘ The Kids Are All Right, the pursuits of happiness, and the spaces between’, Camera Obscura (2014) 29, pp. 111135 . On earlier films about male pregnancy see Maher, JaneMaree, ‘A pregnant man in the movies: the visual politics of reproduction’, Continuum (2008) 22, pp. 279288 ; and Hill, Rodney, ‘Queering the New-Wave deal: gender and sexuality in Jacques Demy's A Slightly Pregnant Man ’, Post Script (2014) 34, pp. 5060 .

105 See Sears, Camilla A. and Godderis, Rebecca, ‘Roar like a tiger on TV? Constructions of women and childbirth in reality TV’, Feminist Media Studies (2011) 11, pp. 181195 ; Guglielmo, Letizia (ed.), MTV and Teen Pregnancy: Critical Essays on 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom , Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2013 ; Bull, Sofia, ‘Midwives, medicine and natural births: female agency in Scandinavian birthing shows’, Critical Studies in Television (2016) 11, pp. 177189 ; Horeck, Tanya, ‘The affective labour of One Born Every Minute in its UK and US formats’, Critical Studies in Television (2016) 11, pp. 164176 ; and De Benedictis, Sara, ‘Watching One Born Every Minute: negotiating the terms of the “good birth”’, in Moseley, Rachel, Wheatley, Helen and Wood, Helen (eds.), Television for Women: New Directions, New York: Routledge, 2017, pp. 110127 .

106 Ruoff, Jeffrey K., ‘Home movies of the avant-garde: Jonas Mekas and the New York art world’, in James, David E. (ed.), To Free the Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992, pp. 294312 , 301. See further Segal, op. cit. (69).

107 See Longhurst, Robyn, ‘YouTube: a new space for birth?’, Feminist Review (2009) 93, pp. 4663 .

108 Roberts, Julie, ‘“Wakey wakey baby”: narrating four-dimensional (4D) bonding scans’, Sociology of Health & Illness (2012) 34, pp. 299314 , 301. See further Roberts, , The Visualised Foetus: A Cultural and Political Analysis of Ultrasound Imagery, Farnham: Ashgate, 2012 .

109 See Franklin, Sarah, Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells, and the Future of Kinship, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013, pp. 246254 ; and van de Wiel, Lucy, ‘Cellular origins: a visual analysis of time-lapse embryo imaging’, in Lie, Merete and Lykke, Nina (eds.), Assisted Reproduction across Borders: Feminist Perspectives on Normalizations, Disruptions and Transmissions, New York: Routledge, 2017, pp. 288301 .

110 See Stramer, Brian M. and Dunn, Graham A., ‘Cells on film: the past and future of cinemicroscopy’, Journal of Cell Science (2015) 128, pp. 913 .

111 See Wolf, Jacqueline H., ‘Film as the medium; reproduction, sex, and power as the message’, Journal of Women's History (2010), 22, pp. 173184 .

112 For example, Debra Pascali-Bonaro's Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret (2009) and Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha's Made in India: A Film about Surrogacy (2010). Irene Lusztig's The Motherhood Archives (2013) makes the most effective use of archival footage, including from recently unearthed Soviet and French childbirth films; see Earlier feminist documentaries notably interrogated coercive sterilization practices in Puerto Rico and India: Safford, Kimberly, ‘ La Operación: forced sterilization’, Jump Cut (1984) 29, pp. 3738 ; and Sinha, Madhumeeta, ‘Witness to violence: documentary cinema and the women's movement in India’, Indian Journal of Gender Studies (2010) 17, pp. 365373 . Certain of these films and many others are available from Women Make Movies at

This special issue began as an annual series of public film screenings and discussions organised by Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, Francis Neary and Nick Hopwood and supported by the Wellcome Trust through a strategic award in the history of medicine on the theme Generation to Reproduction (088708) to Hopwood and colleagues in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge. The contributions were workshopped in September 2015 at the Reproduction on Film conference, which was organized by the editors (Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, Patrick Ellis and Caitjan Gainty) and funded by the same grant and by the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at King's College London. We are grateful to all those who participated in the event, especially Tom Gunning and Kate O'Riordan for opening and closing comments respectively. Finally, we thank Sofia Bull, Caitjan Gainty, Nick Hopwood, David E. James and two anonymous reviewers for reading drafts of the introduction; Tim Boon, Scott Curtis, Oliver Gaycken, Sarah Franklin, John David Rhodes, Mark Sandberg and Angela Saward for advice along the way; Kathryn Schoefert for research assistance; Ian Bolton for preparing some of the images; and John Gaunt, Trish Hatton, Daniel Pierce and especially Charlotte Sleigh for editorial guidance and firm deadlines. Images were licensed with support from the Generation to Reproduction award; funding for the Open Access charge was provided by the Wellcome Trust.


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