The Good Breast
A film by Bernadette Wegenstein
Produced by Elizabeth Karr, Rebecca Messner and Jon Reiss
THE GOOD BREAST explores breast cancer as ritual, presenting today's rise of the mastectomy in the U.S. as a modern form of breast sacrifice.
The no-nonsense veteran breast cancer surgeon Dr. Lauren Schnaper believes that fear and ignorance are fueling an alarming rate of medically unnecessary mastectomies in America. But for the four women allowing us intimate access to their mastectomies and their individual and most personal breast reconstructions, their search for the "good breast" is a necessity. We witness the ups and downs of the women's breast loss and reconstructions, from the collateral damage of infected implants and dying flaps to a cosmetic nipple exchange, and a miraculous Lat Dorsi breast reconstruction.
The film blends archival medical films and the history of the mastectomy since William S. Halsted with the surprising journey taken by Dr. Schnaper and her partner, the plastic surgeon Dr. Slezak, to Catania, Sicily, to experience the annual festival of the breast Saint Agatha, the third largest such celebration in the world. What the doctors learn about the Sicilian saint of the breast as an ancient symbol of female strength leads to a provocative connection between our contemporary American culture of the mastectomy and this ancient veneration of the breast.
The loss of the breast of each of our patient characters illustrates that the breast is far more than just an organ; but rather contains within it the history, suffering and power of female identity.
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"Presenting the voices of women with breast cancer, their doctors, and their families, THE GOOD BREAST poignantly recounts the myriad different ways in which women equate femininity and their bodies with their sense of self." —Sujata Moorti, Director and Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Middlebury College
"Explores bodily, emotional, erotic, and psychic scars of the loss of the breast for breast cancer patients, their families, and communities, skillfully juxtaposing medical, scientific and religious myths regarding mastectomy in order to offer a brilliant diagnosis of personal and cultural imaginaries of female bodies. If the good breast is, as Melanie Klein writes, the prototype of the everything that is good, then what are the implications of such enormous loss, especially if this loss is not culturally recognized? And how can we mourn such a loss? A remarkable work of great interests to feminist scholars, students, and activists." —Ewa Plonowska Ziarek, Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature, author of Feminist Aesthetics and the Politics of Modernism
"The information on mammography, DCIS, lead time bias, and the inherent uncertainty of biomedicine is spot on. The personal stories are authentic and illuminated the complexity of medical decision-making. I loved the main doctor as a primary character and the diversity of stories among the diagnosed." —Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues
"Shot with great sensitivity, but never "sugar coats." The disease's effects go far beyond the physical body. It effects social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of life. Patients battle cancer on each dimension. For some the breast cancer journey leads to tragedy; for others it leads to triumph. But for all who view this film it will lead to enlightenment." —Thomas A. LaVeist, PhD, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University