Description from TIFF 2009 catalog by Thom Powers:
Necessity may be the mother of invention. But who is the parent of a child when the sperm comes from Israel, the egg comes from the United States and the surrogate pregnancy takes place in Gujarat, India? Welcome to the brave new world of outsourcing birth. The system is driven by law and economics. In Israel, the practice of using surrogate mothers is marred by legal roadblocks. In the United States, it’s expensive. In India, it’s affordable, but Western clients want white babies. Israeli director Zippi Brand Frank travels to three continents, following an entrepreneur named Doron who takes globalized business to a new level.
Google Baby skilfully humanizes the people involved at every step of the pregnancy. No one would participate in any aspect of this process without having strong motivations, from the couples who yearn to have a child, to the American women who undergo the gruelling process of fertility treatments to increase egg production, to the impoverished Indian women who carry the child only to have the baby taken away at birth. Wherever she goes, Brand Frank has a knack for gaining access to moments of powerful intimacy and anxiety. She elicits candid interviews and composes images that are worth a thousand words. The film swings from absurdity to profundity, and raises myriad questions about women’s rights, gay rights, science, law, ethics, economics, parenting and even hygiene.
A key figure in the narrative is Dr. Nayna Patel, who started the Gujarat clinic that recruits surrogate mothers, houses them for the duration of their pregnancies, then removes the babies by Caesarean section and hands the infants over to paying clients. Patel is blunt about the risks (including fatality), yet persuasive in describing the financial benefits for the destitute surrogates. Like any modern business, her services are advertised on the Internet with a video.
As the director, Brand Frank doesn’t interject her own opinions or make snap judgments. She delves into the nuances and grey areas. As shocking as it seems, you might be witnessing the birth of a movement.
About the director:
Zippi Brand Frank was born in Tel Aviv. She studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before receiving a B.A. in law and journalism from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2005-2006, she attended Harvard University under a Nieman Foundation Fellowship. She is the director of the television documentary series She Is in the Army Now — “Yerukot” (01), Somebody to Love (03) and Wake Up Call (05). Google Baby (09) is her first feature documentary.