Speak for Me is the story of Texas women speaking out for reproductive justice. Beginning with Senator Wendy Davis’s June 25, 2013 filibuster of Senate Bill 5, which severely limited women’s access to safe and legal abortions, the film follows a remarkable handful of advocates who mobilized to come to the capital that day, giving birth to a new movement and a new generation of feminists. We tell these stories.
Structured by the filibuster itself, Speak for Me introduces the women and the health care experts whose testimonies Senator Davis read during the filibuster, mingling their words—read by Davis—with the voices of the women, leading out of the capitol and into their rich, diverse lives. Leaders in the Texas reproductive rights movement recall the events – going back to 2011 – leading up to the filibuster, and in the years that followed the dreadful impacts of the new law. Leaving and returning to the senate floor, the film provides backstories and context for events that briefly seized the nation’s attention in the summer of 2013, and through this the recent history of women’s reproductive rights and reproductive justice.
The film also introduces newly mobilized citizens, now activists and advocates, whose transformations carry the film from screen to street in its call for citizen re-engagement in the democratic process. From the Rio Grande Valley to small town West Texas to inner city Houston, we meet people working to secure logistical and financial support for people who must travel long distances for reproductive health care.
Lyrical in style and fierce in tone, information-rich and art-heavy, the film mixes history and poetry, performance on and off the state house floor. Interviews combine with event footage of organizers and feminist performers, with archival footage from the filibuster itself, shot from many perspectives by citizens in attendance, frenetic screen grabs of the tweets, Facebook posts and texts that served as a call to action for so many who came to speak for themselves, and for the thousands of women silenced by the Texas legislature.
About the Director
GRETCHEN STOELTJE – Director/Producer Gretchen Stoeltje walked into a movie theater, fell in love, and never looked back. Films she wrote, produced, directed and sometimes edited include VENOM IN A JAR, A KISS FROM THE QUEEN (1991), A.R.M. AROUND MOSCOW (1994, co-produced Jeanne C. Finley), and BIONIC BEAUTY SALON (1999). All have played festivals and television in the US, Canada and Europe, and showed at many exhibition venues including the 1995 Whitney Biennial. These films tell the stories of being female, from West Texas rattlesnake queen to post-cold war, mail order bride to turn-of-the-century Every Teen and now Pro-Choice 21st Century Legislator. All strive to recast women in their own images and provide authentic dialogue about what it means to grow up female and become the heroine of one’s own story.