“Jackson” – Atlanta Film Festival Review (4 of 5 Stars)

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By Christo Stevens, Senior Editor

Jackson, Mississippi is home to the very last abortion clinic in the state. Surrounded by 38 crisis pregnancy centers, the last remaining clinic is hanging on by a thread.

The film Jackson throws us into the thick of the battle between pro-lifers and pro-choicers at a crucial point for the clinic. The film primarily follows three women; the director of the abortion clinic, a single mother of five who struggles to keep food in her kids’ bellies, and the pro-life head of The Center for Pregnancy Choices.

Jackson was directed by Maisie Crow and based on the recent documentary short The Last Clinic. Filming for nearly three years, Crow gets so up close and personal to all involved it’s mind blowing. We’re first introduced to the head of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Shannon Brewer. Brewer, as we see in a scene where she’s driving into work past protestors and picketers, is exhausted. Pro-lifers have posted up outside the clinic and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere. “Baby killer” and “murderer” are just a few of the things Brewer and her coworkers hear echoing outside the clinic on a daily basis. Shannon Brewer, who is now a mother of six can relate to a lot of the women that come and see her. She recounts being younger and so poor that the only piece of furniture in her apartment was a mattress. She talks about not being able to get an abortion yet not being able to give her child up for adoption after looking into his eyes. She explains the danger of the simultaneous lack of education and abortion resources. Brewer desperately wants for the clinic to stay open. Thanks to the dwindling amount of clinics in the state, she knows how hard it is for women to find the help they need.

At the other end of the spectrum we have Beverly Beavers. Beavers, who heads up the Center for Pregnancy Choices is a bible-wielding pro-lifer whose main mission is shut down the very last clinic in Mississippi. “You should want to die for your baby, your baby shouldn’t be dying for you” she tearfully exclaims. We follow Beverly to various church sermons, worship groups and fundraisers as people of all ages gear up to do whatever it takes to end abortion in the state. Crow and team never do anything to paint these people in a negative light nor does she need to. Beverly bafflingly wants an abstinence-only approach to sex education.

The third woman Jackson follows is April Jackson. April is a black single mother with four children and another one on the way. When we first meet her she still seems vaguely hesitant about having it at all. We follow April on her trips to one of the crisis pregnancy centers where she frequently meets with Beverly Beavers for counseling. April, who is living in poverty and doing everything she can to raise her 4 kids on her own, still has dreams. “There’s so much I want to do. I want to explore the world”. April’s story is heart wrenching in more ways than one.

There’s so much to draw from Jackson. Maisie Crow has crafted a truly challenging and thought provoking film about the complexities surrounding the abortion argument. While the clinic is currently still open, that could change any day. Jackson, in my book, is the best documentary of the 41st Atlanta Film Festival.

4 out of 5 stars

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