Semi Retired Films in co-production with Digital Harvest Media has announced that their documentary BORN FREE: BIRTH IN AMERICA, investigating women’s birthing rights in the United States, will be released on streaming platforms for free on Mother’s Day. The debut feature documentary from director Paula James-Martinez takes a deep dive into what it is like to have a baby in modern day America and asks the difficult questions to unlock why it is the most dangerous and most expensive nation in the developed world to give birth in.
Inspired by James-Martinez’s own childbirth experience, the documentary features a host of experts and maternal health advocates including Christy Turlington, equitable maternal outcomes expert Chanel Porchia-Albert, Charles Johnson, whose own wife died in childbirth, Senator Tammy Duckworth and Senator Joe Kennedy, amongst others, who discuss the impact of current medical system standards and ultimate failure for those who experience traumatic pregnancies.
Director Paula James-Martinez said, “Born Free is really a film asking the question, “why are things going so wrong?” If we look at having the worst maternal mortality rate in the US since 1965, it is an indication of the state of both women’s health and how we are caring for mothers. It’s showing pretty clearly that we are in crisis mode. Born Free aims to educate women and birthing people about the problems we are facing, but also ways in which to find solutions. Birth and motherhood certainly aren’t easy, but having a child is an act of hope, and I’m adamant that we can’t accept so many awful stories as the norm.“
BORN FREE: BIRTH IN AMERICA sheds light on the maternal health crises facing America and also led to the founding of the non-profit organization The Mother Lovers, which focuses on educating people to achieve healthier and safer birthing outcomes.
The United States is the only nation in the developed world with a rising maternal mortality rate. From 2019 to 2023, The number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births in the United States of America has increased by 40%. Today the U.S. has a maternal mortality rate of 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, the highest level since 1965.
Previously Fashion Director of Refinery 29, the world’s largest online women’s publication and with a background in fashion publishing as an editor for some of Europe’s most respected luxury style magazines, James-Martinez shot her first film in locations across the United States with an all-female crew.
The Mother’s Day AVOD streaming release for free across all platforms will allow even larger audiences to access the film, providing more women, mothers and families with knowledge about the current state of maternal health and giving them the tools to understand their right to the best possible care.
Created with support from The Mother Lovers and produced by Moon Cookie Media, BORN FREE: BIRTH IN AMERICA is directed by Paula James-Martinez and written by Paula James-Martinez and Steph Zenee Perez. Producers are Paula James-Martinez, Rebecca Dayan, Steph Zenee Perez and Lianne Turner, with Maritza Cayo co-producing. The film is executive produced by Sara Ojjeh, Anthony James-Martinez, Vanessa Hope, Robert C. Profusek and Claire Olshan. Director of Photography is Seannie Bryan and the editor is Steph Zenee Perez. Art direction and visual effects are by Iskra Tirado Karadzhova and Chanel Porchia-Albert is Associate Producer. Margot serves as the film’s composer with Johanna Cranitch as music supervisor and composer.
The film will be distributed by Rock Salt Releasing and made available for free on the following platforms: Tubi, Roku, Amazon’s Freevee, Plex, Local Now, Xumo, and Fawesome.