San Francisco, AFI Docs, IFF Boston, Cleveland, Miami
People struggling with infertility participate in a contest held by a fertility clinic.
Las Vegas-based Sher Fertility Clinics, a lucrative private chain pioneered by an entrepreneurial South African specialist, annually holds the I Believe contest, offering free in vitro fertilization services to one lucky winner, as determined initially by popular vote online, and then finally by a panel of fertility specialists. Entrants share their often heartbreaking, desperate stories, and while the judges take these into account, they also must balance their decision based on who might have the best chance of actually conceiving – as they make very clear, their services have no guarantee of success. Even so, with costs potentially reaching into the hundreds of thousands, IVF is often out of reach of most ordinary Americans, making the Sher contest an attractive longshot to many, despite its offputting nature. Micheli quickly profiles several hopefuls before revealing the winners, Ann and Brian Johnson, who suffered the miscarriages of twins as well as a failed adoption. The film follows them, as well as a couple of other cases who continue with fertility treatments on their own, to different results. Micheli does offer a far more sensitive approach than might be expected given the potentially sensationalistic aspects of the contest, but more attention could have been paid to its disturbing ethical and moral implications, and to the larger underlying problems with health care and the economy which are viewed to necessitate it.