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by Maria Arlamovsky

grade: 7.5

Future Baby doesn’t aim to give precise answers on the subject. Likewise, the difficult moral questions that might be raised following its screening are only vaguely addressed, but never really deepened. A choice, this one, more than appreciable, since it is immediately clear that director Maria Arlamovsky wanted to foreground, above all, the inner self of the characters each time introduced, in addition, of course, to the advances that, nowadays, have been achieved through research.

Future children

You were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.” wrote the great Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. Nothing could be truer or more sharable. And this same quotation would also seem to have become the motto of director Maria Arlamovsky, who has always shown great curiosity about science and the progress made, which in one way or another makes man’s life better or, at any rate, enables him to choose his own future. This was the case in the recent Robolove, as well as in Future Baby, made in 2016 and the Austrian director’s first documentary for cinema.

Because, in fact, if in Robolove – presented as a national premiere at the Viennale 2019 and as an Italian premiere at the festival Sotto le Stelle dell’Austria 2020 – we saw how, in the near future, robots could replace humans at work, in Future Baby the moral issue raised is, if you like, even more complicated: being able to become parents thanks to ‘artificial’ practices, now through assisted reproduction, now through surrogate mothers.

And so, the director embarked on a long journey around the world – from the United States to the Czech Republic, from Israel to Mexico, not forgetting Spain and Austria – in order to document the different realities that deal with the birth of children using all the means that science has made available to us to date.

From in-vitro fertilisation clinics to organisations that allow future parents to choose who will donate sperm or egg to them, Arlamovsky has given us, in her Future Baby, a picture of the situation experienced by millions of potential parents today that is as comprehensive as possible. And if frequent interviews show us, each time, the individual stories that led the protagonists of the documentary to make certain choices, then science and individual emotions create a fair and balanced mixture that shows us a reality of which we have often heard, but which, in fact, we have not always had the opportunity to observe closely.

Future Baby doesn’t aim to give precise answers on the subject. Likewise, the controversial moral questions that might be raised after watching it are only vaguely addressed, never really deepened. This is a more than appreciable choice, since it is immediately clear that the director wanted to foreground, above all, the inner feelings of the characters presented each time (particularly impressive, in this regard, is the scene of a potential mother-to-be who can barely hold back her tears when a doctor tells her that she has little chance of becoming pregnant), in addition, of course, to the progress that has been achieved through research nowadays.

This mise en scène is quite direct and avoids superfluous directorial virtuosity, while at the same time being clear and informative. Yet, despite this, one cannot fail to acknowledge to Future Baby also a marked underlying lyricism. We notice this, first of all, at the opening of the documentary, during the interview, on a boat in the open sea, with the journalist Mìriam Zoll, as well as whenever we happen to see immense expanses of sea on the screen, now from a boat, now in evocative panoramas of the cities visited each time.

And it is precisely the powerful image of the sea, in all its grandeur, and which, given its vastness, vanishes into the horizon, that conveys to us a strong idea of freedom. Freedom intended as the precious possibility of choosing our future, a freedom obtained precisely thanks to the many breakthroughs achieved over the years. And so it is precisely freedom and hope (thanks also to the birth scene at the end of the documentary) the real keywords of Future Baby. All this makes for a joyous and fresh as sea breeze hymn to life.

Original title: Future Baby
Directed by: Maria Arlamovsky
Country/year: Austria / 2016
Running time: 88’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Maria Arlamovsky
Cinematography: Sebastian Arlamovsky
Produced by: Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Future Baby on iMDb; the page of Future Baby on the website of the Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion