the American Dream, African Maternity, African Pregnancy, African Mothers, Paolo Patruno, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Childbirth in the Shadow of the American Dream

BY   Paolo Patruno  |  PUB   World Plus 

The voices of African American women are key to resolving gaping maternal health disparities in the United States. Their voices are at the center of a new documentary by Italian filmmaker Paolo Patruno.
Birth is a dream. Or at least, that’s what Paolo Patruno believed before a midwife opened his eyes to the darker realities many women face in childbirth. Paolo is a World Pulse community member from Italy and an engineer, photographer, and filmmaker. As he traveled throughout Africa for work, women began sharing with him their harrowing journeys to motherhood.

Moved by what he heard, Paolo launched Birth is a Dream, a multimedia project to document their stories. This project has taken him to Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zimbabwe—and now, Orlando, Florida. His latest documentary is filmed in the United States, where African American women are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

Watch the video to hear the story of midwife Jennie Joseph and a group of African American moms as they navigate the challenges and inequities in the US medical system. Then, go behind the scenes with Paolo Patruno in a Q&A with the filmmaker.

How did the American Dream Documentary Come About?

The American Dream is the latest story that I have produced for my Birth is a Dream project, which I began in 2011. After more than five years documenting maternal health in Africa, I started hearing from women all over the world, some of them from the US. As I started researching, I realized that women in the US face more maternal health challenges than other industrialized countries and black women are the most in danger. I realized this would be a good opportunity to show that this challenge is not just happening in Africa. More than 800 women are dying every day from pregnancy or childbirth complications all over the world. This is a silent war. Women are dying but it’s not covered by major media.

You are an example of how men can be involved in Maternal Health Advocacy. Where did your interest in Maternal Health Issues begin?

I met an English midwife while I was living in Malawi and working as an engineer. She was working in the main hospital in the capital Lilongwe, and she started sharing with me the challenges behind maternal health there and something happened in my mind. I had been traveling in Africa for many years and I didn’t know anything about this issue. That was the starting point. And story after story, year after year, my commitment and interest has grown.



Paolo Patruno
PHOTOGRAPHER & FILMMAKER
Paolo Patruno (Italy) is a freelance social-documentary photographer and filmmaker. He traveled throughout Africa over the past ten years, documenting global topics, including health care, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. Since 2011 he has been working on his long-term project, “BIRTH IS A DREAM” which aims to document and raise awareness about maternal health in Africa.

Paolo’s work has been published in the The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, Daily Mail, REFINERY29, and other reputable publications. His work has been awarded on an international level, having received first place in the Social Documentary and Narrative Documentary categories; a gold medal at Px3 Paris Photography Prize; and “Photographer of the Year” in the Humanitarian and Documentary category at 4th Pollux Awards, among others. Recent documentary film “the AMERICAN dream” has been selected for the 2016 Women’s Voices Now Online Film Festival and the Women Deliver 2016 Global Conference.

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