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Film aims to say ta-ta to breast negativity

  • “The Breast Archives” is a chapter film made up of a series of interviews with a diverse group of nine women. Contributed image

  • “The Breast Archives” is a chapter film made up of a series of interviews with a diverse group of nine women. Contributed image



Staff Writer
Friday, November 09, 2018

You have a breast screening scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 11.

But it won’t be held at a doctor’s office. It’s slated for Green River Yoga & Movement on the second floor of 158 Main St. in Greenfield. And it’s not a medical procedure. It’s the public showing of a documentary film to benefit Cancer Connection.

Local filmmaker Meagan Murphy said she created “The Breast Archives” to expose the complex role breasts play in body image, health and social identity. It is a chapter film made up of a series of interviews with a diverse group of nine women.

“It was a casual experiment initially, but women started opening up. These women had never had a proper outlet for these stories, these feelings they’ve harbored for a lifetime,” Murphy said.

Libby Volckening, director of Green River Yoga & Movement, said she reached out to Murphy about a screening after seeing the film at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton last year. “The Breast Archives” has had several screenings, including at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology’s annual conference in Las Vegas, Nev., in March, since it was released last year.

“It was so moving,” Volckening said about the film. “I happen to be a breast cancer survivor myself, and I would say that that movie helps me really come to terms with and really appreciate my breasts for the first time in a long time.

“I wanted to share it with all the women in my life,” Volckening added.

Murphy was inspired to embark on the project after traveling to Egypt in April of 2011 and visiting ancient temples where priestesses, goddesses and everyday women were depicted topless. She said she realized “breasts contain some sort of a unique wisdom that we’ve overlooked.”

In 2012, Murphy said, there seemed to be a “train running off its rails,” as several friends experienced breast problems, including trouble nursing babies, and one friend eventually died of breast cancer. Murphy then spoke with a doctor she knows and learned most women are unhappy with their breasts. This made her think.

“Is there a connection between a woman’s susceptibility and her relationship with her own breasts? Probably, but how does someone find out?” she said.

In the film’s trailer, which can be viewed at bit.ly/2Pdp2hN, women describe what it is like living with breasts and how talking about them is often considered taboo.

“I think everybody has a little fixation on them,” one interviewee said.

“If a woman is taught to touch her breasts with love, who knows what would happen,” said another.

Murphy, who lives in Easthampton, said she cast a wide net when soliciting participants and, thanks to luck and timing, a “whole hodgepodge of gals” responded. She said the majority of the women, ages 33 to 68, are from the Pioneer Valley. A few are bisexual, Murphy added, and one is a married lesbian.

Murphy said it took some convincing, but most of the women in the film agreed to take off their tops and expose their breasts on camera for part of their conversations in an attempt to chisel away at the stigma behind toplessness. The director said this displays “a wonderful mix of courage and vulnerability.”

Filming ended in 2012, though work on it did not stop until 2017. Murphy worked full-time in the television and broadcasting industry for 30 years, including for most of this project.

Fernanda Rossi was brought on as a writer and Miriam Cutler is the film’s composer. Murphy started a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, to help raise money for outreach and production costs. Contributions can be made at kck.st/2OsEFg1.

Green River Yoga can accommodate 40 to 50 people for the Sunday screening. Tickets are available by sending an email to info@greenriveryoga.com. The suggested $20 donations for tickets will benefit Cancer Connection.

Domenic Poli joined the Greenfield Recorder in 2016. He covers Sunderland, Whately, Conway and Deerfield. He can be reached at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.