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When an unlikely duo discovers a pattern of illegal sterilizations in women’s prisons, they wage a near impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, BELLY OF THE BEAST exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons.


“You can hear parts of the song in the new trailer for the movie, directed by Erika Cohn, which offers an unflinching look at women who have been abused in the criminal justice system.” - Variety



“I was moved by Erika Cohn’s important documentary ‘Belly of the Beast,'” Blige says in an email to Variety. “I immediately knew I wanted to be involved and was inspired to write a song that would amplify the voices of women in prison. ‘See What You’ve Done’ is a testimony, a call to be strong, and an anthem for a movement.”

The pastoral farmlands surrounding the Central California Women’s Facility, the world’s largest women’s prison, help conceal the reproductive and human rights violations transpiring inside its walls. A courageous young woman who was involuntarily sterilized at the age of 24 while incarcerated at the facility, teams up with a radical lawyer to stop these violations. They spearhead investigations that uncover a series of statewide crimes, primarily targeting women of color, from inadequate access to healthcare to sexual assault to illegal sterilization. Together, with a team of tenacious heroines, both in and out of prison, they take to the courtroom to fight for reparations. But no one believes them. As additional damning evidence is uncovered by the Center for Investigative Reporting, a media frenzy and series of hearings provide hope for some semblance of justice. Yet, doctors and prison officials contend that the procedures were in each person’s best interest and of an overall social benefit. Invoking the weight of the historic stain and legacy of eugenics, BELLY OF THE BEAST presents a decade long, infuriating contemporary legal drama.


Director Erika Cohn is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning director/producer who Variety recognized as one of 2017’s top documentary filmmakers to watch and was featured in DOC NYC’s 2019 “40 Under 40.” Most recently, Erika completed The Judge, a Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated film about the first woman judge appointed to the Middle East’s Shari’a courts, which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS’ 2018 Independent Lens series



.Producer Angela Tucker is a writer, director and Emmy nominated producer who works in narrative and documentary genres. Her directorial work includes “All Skinfolk, Ain’t Kinfolk,” a documentary short which aired PBS’ Reel South about a mayoral election in New Orleans. A Visiting Professor at Tulane University, Tucker was a Sundance Institute Women Filmmakers Initiative Fellow.


  • Year
    2020
  • Runtime
    82 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    United States
  • Premiere
    11 June 2020
  • Director
    Erika Cohn
  • Producer
    Erika Cohn & Angela Tucker