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Leona's Sister Gerri

by Jane Gillooly

A provocative film about abortion

Leona's Sister Gerri tells the dramatic story of Gerri Santoro, a mother of two and the "real person" in the now famous photo of an anoymous woman on a motel floor, dead from an illegal abortion. Reprinted thousands of times on placards, and in the media, this grisly photo became a pro-choice icon. Should the media have used this image? What circumstances led to Gerri's tragic death? Powerfully addressing issues of reproductive rights and domestic violence, this video is a moving portrait of Gerri Santoro's life and society's response to her death. "We knew the corpse, naked and abject, but we never knew the story, or we didn't until "Leona's Sister Gerri", Jane Gillooly's searingly effective study of an infamous photograph and how it came into being. Patiently piecing together the facts behind this wrenching image, Ms Gillooly brings a wide breadth of understanding to the tragedy she uncovers. "Forcefull, intimate, unpretentious and devastating." New York Times, Janet Maslin "Truly remarkable" New York Magazine, John Leonard "A thoughtful, dignified and intensely moving documentary." The Nation Transfixing tale of an unwilling symbol. Without taking sides in the abortion debate "Leona's Sister Gerri" is a straightforward, tragic biography of one of the women behind the statistics." Los Angeles Times, Howard Rosenberg "Leona's Sister Gerri makes what might have been an effective abortion rights polemic into something greater". Boston Globe, Frederick M. Biddle "Unusually thoughtful and thought provoking. The film is a superb documentary layered with stories and emotions." Philadelphia Inquirer, Jonathan Storm "Fleshing out the life behind a now iconic image (the film) makes the political personal, the abstract particular and in so doing uncover layers of humanity often missing in political rhetoric." Boston Globe Magazine, Madeline Drexler "Provocative and intelligent inquiry into the life of Gerri Santoro". Miami Herald, Robin Dougherty "Puts a human face and dimension on this symbol of lonesome tragedy. It's a messy tale, grim and common, told with uncommon restraint." USA Today, Matt Rush

quoteAs heart stopping as any experience of our own, this fine and moving documentary reminds all who see it that life stories, not statistics, contain the truth.
Gloria Steinem

quoteThis film should be seen by everyone--on any side--involved in the debate about abortion...A wonderful contribution to the discussion of reproductive rights.
Andrea S. Walsh
Women's Studies, Harvard University

Pamela Kress, Loras College
Library Journal
full review

R. Pitman
Video Librarian
full review

Sue-Ellen Beauregard
full review


  • P.O.V. Series, PBS Television Network
  • "Best Television Documentary" EMMA Award
  • National Women's Political Caucus Museum of Modern Art,
  • Museum of Modern Art, NYC "New Directors, New Films"
  • Editor's Choice, Booklist
  • Bronze Apple, National Educational Film & Video Festival
  • Silver Hugo, Chicago International Film Festival
Leona's Sister Gerri

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