Activism-based documentaries run into a few common problems – favoring sermonizing over conversations and preaching to the converted. It’s tempting whenever engaging in discourse about the facts to presume you are completely right and that everyone should agree with you. (Welcome to Internet film criticism 101!)
Thankfully, Dawn Porter’s urgent documentary “Trapped” manages to avoid the standard pitfalls. Her most valuable weapon are the many unconventional interview subjects of her film. For obvious reasons, the devoutly Christian abortion provider stands out from the pack. Watching him wrestle with the tenants of his faith and belief not to compartmentalize but to actually justify and compel his work feels revelatory, in part because media tends to entrench the idea of two starkly divided camps on the issue.
“Trapped” shows a diverse coalition of men and women committed less to the principles of free choice (however nebulously one chooses to define the concept) and more to the necessity of keeping women safe. Closing facilities for women’s health may or may not reduce the number of abortions. But what it does do is increase the risk that women resort to unregulated, unsanitary facilities that put their lives in danger. Watching these medical professionals attempt to steer vulnerable, scared girls into making prudent decisions about their bodies ranks among some of the more wrenching conversations captured in non-fiction cinema this year. B /