While anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies are lost, many women never get the chance to properly grieve the loss of a child. In order to shed light on this emotional topic, actress and mom of three Zoe Saldaña partnered with her sisters Mariel Saldaña and Cisley Saldaña, as well as Destro Films and Cinestar Pictures, to produce the short film 19 Weeks, which illustrates how devastating and traumatic the experience can be.
The film depicts a woman named Oshun (Alesia Etinoff) who suffers a miscarriage during her gender reveal party. Although she's looking for a reason for her pregnancy loss, Oshun unfortunately learns that sometimes these things "happen." Grappling with the emotions that come with losing a pregnancy, Oshun's mother tries to offer comfort while her partner ponders what could have caused the miscarriage. In the video, we see Oshun imagine an alternative world where the son she lost lives.
When producer Liz Destro first read the script, she was touched by just how much it mirrored some of her own experiences. "You are mourning the loss of HOPE you had for the future — not just for the baby, but for yourself," she said. "This film is a visual reference to that loss of hope — of everything her son would have been, the mother she was supposed to be, and a life that will never be."
Chock-full of powerful imagery, director Evita Castine used her experience to convey how hard pregnancy loss can be. "I have always been interested in the multiple 'waves' a feeling is experienced by people," Evita told POPSUGAR. "I have talked to women who have lost children in really tragic circumstances, and it doesn't matter when it happened, the feeling is extremely visceral. And when I talked to women who have experienced a miscarriage, it is the same feeling."
For Evita, who explored the script using Yoruba mythology — the traditional religious and spiritual concepts of the Yoruba people in Nigeria — making the visible and nonvisible world blend together seamlessly was paramount, particularly when it came to the stain on Oshun's dress.
"I have talked to women who have lost children in really tragic circumstances, and it doesn't matter when it happened, the feeling is extremely visceral."
"It became really important to me to think not just in terms of image but also in terms of sound," she explained. "I think the woman's body and its functions have been demonized, and it's not often in the popular conscious of imagery that you see images of blood related to women as 'normal' — as part of a cycle that has it's own internal knowledge. The blood holds so much information about a person, not just their physical DNA but also [their] spirituality."
19 Weeks also sparks conversation about maternity leave, as Oshun doesn't have the option to take off from work. "The mention of not getting maternity leave was extremely important because as a society, we don't honor pain we can't see," explained Alesia, who wrote and starred in the film. "If there is no baby, there is no reason for leave. Miscarriages are something that's still taboo to even talk about at length, and so oftentimes women suffer in silence as the world goes on around them, with the expectation to go on as well. And it's cruel. And wrong. I felt it important to talk about."
"We want women to watch this and feel seen."
Producer Kendra Chanae Chapman, agreed, noting that women shouldn't shy away from what losing a pregnancy is actually like. "As women, our bodies go through a lot, and when Alesia and I started working on this project, we were firm in not wanting to glamorize anything," she said. "There's a balance between showing too much or too little, but I think we were really able to find a middle ground that still depicted an honest experience. We want women to watch this and feel seen."
Together, these women are hoping to show a miscarriage for what it truly is: an emotional loss. As an executive producer on the film, Zoe agrees that normalizing pregnancy loss is of utmost importance. "Mariel, Cisely, and I are immensely proud that Cinestar Pictures is involved with a project created from such a labor of love and homage, all while beautifully shedding light on the reality millions of women and families face," she said.