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April 10, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
It’s been more than twenty years since Candice Bergen’s fictional alter-ego, Murphy Brown, shook the nation by becoming television’s most prominent single mother. Now, with “First Comes Love,” documentarian Nina Davenport may be about to shake things up again.
The film chronicles her very personal journey as she decided that it was time to become a mother, and made it happen with the same drive and energy that she’s applied to all of the other goals she’s set for herself in her life.
“When I found myself forty-one, single, and considering having a baby on my own,” she explains, “I thought, ‘well, I have to make a film about it.’ How could I not?”
Intensely personal documentaries are characteristic of Davenport’s work. She studied film at Harvard, under Ross McElwee and Rob Moss. Although she rebelled against some of their ideas in her first film,“Hello Photo,” she quickly realized that the presence of a camera always changed the dynamic of the scenes she filmed. She would always be a subject of such films, no matter how invisible she tried to make herself and the camera. Once she adjusted to that idea, her films became far more personal, chronicling a post-9/11 road trip across America in “Parallel Lines” and her struggle with traditional relationship expectations in “Always a Bridesmaid.” This film, though, is by far her most personal.
“I think showing yourself giving birth is about as personal as it gets!” she laughs.
But she hopes that the prospect of that won’t make people shy away; this isn’t just a film for mothers.
“It actually gets into all sorts of very universal themes such as how parents and children relate, the meaning of friendship, the meaning of family,” she points out. “I have found that everybody finds a way into the film, because it touches on so many different themes.”
She hopes that they will find it inspirational, as well.
“Everybody’s talking about how the definition of modern family is changing,” she reflects. “I think depicting an alternative family in a positive light is useful, because not everybody is going to find their idealized version of family.”
Women of Davenport’s generation, after all, were under a lot of pressure to establish traditional families as well as careers, even if they weren’t necessarily compatible.
“If I had felt that it was a viable, good option all along to do something that was not the conventional path,” she adds, “I would have been under a lot less pressure, and therefore been happier. So I felt like this could inspire people, not necessarily to do what I did, but to feel like there’s lots of different pathways to finding family and finding happiness.”
Photo by George F. Gund.
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