In the 21st century age of rapid biotechnology development and globalization, women's bodies have become commodities, supplied and sold to the infertile. What began in the 1980s with the Baby M case has exploded into a vast fertility-industrial complex that spans the globe. The two major players in this drama are India and the United States. While India is the world's number one supplier of surrogate mothers, the U.S. is close behind in the number two spot. As a source of both supply and demand, the United States lies at the epicenter of a multi-billion dollar business fraught with complex emotional issues swirling around people desperate to have a child and willing to go to any lengths to fulfill their elusive dream. At the other end of the transaction are frequently impoverished women equally desperate for financial resources to improve their dire economic straits.
Into this ethical, commercial, legal, human rights and cultural morass boldly entered two dedicated and determined filmmakers seeking to shed a light on this ever-growing phenomenon. The result of their creative collaboration is the documentary film Made in India, appropriately produced by two women, one Indian and the other American.
Made in India is a feature-length documentary about the human experiences behind the practice of "outsourcing" surrogate mothers to India. The film follows a middle class white couple from Texas whose struggle with infertility led them to seek out a surrogate mother in India to gestate their child. As the cost of surrogacy in the U.S. averages approximately $120,000, the featured couple searched for a much cheaper alternative in India, a country and culture of which they were essentially ignorant. Arriving in India like fish out of water, the wife and husband follow their Indian brokers through the process that will lead them to their desired end. On the other side of the equation is a young, impoverished, illiterate Indian woman and mother of her own children who sees this as an opportunity to bring desperately needed income to her household.
As the film weaves the interconnected storylines of surrogate and intended parents, a picture emerges of single-minded determination enabled by financial means juxtaposed with impoverishment, illiteracy, and the struggle to survive. The film sensitively reveals what unfolds when forces bring together a complicated clash of people in crisis-one emotional, the other economic-against a backdrop of reproductive technology played out across cultures and countries.
As women deeply interested in issues of reproductive rights, social justice and global issues, the subject of "outsourcing" surrogacy to India captivated the filmmakers, who aimed to go beyond sensationalist headlines to uncover the personal lives and choices of the surrogates and infertile people involved.
Directed and produced by Vaishali Sinha and Rebecca Haimowitz and Executive Produced by Erin Heidenreich, Made in India was supported in part by Chicken & Egg Pictures, Center for Asian American Media, The Fledgling Fund, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, The Playboy Foundation and other generous donors/foundations. The film will premiere late spring/summer 2010 at U.S. and International film festivals.
Kathy Sloan is Program Coordinator for the Council for Responsible Genetics.