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Leonas Sister Gerri (1995)

Leona Gordon , Geraldine 'Gerri' Santoro , Jane Gillooly  |  NR |  DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Leona Gordon, Geraldine 'Gerri' Santoro
  • Directors: Jane Gillooly
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: March 27, 2007
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000KJU1IM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,155 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Leonas Sister Gerri" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Filmmaker interview and biography
  • Viewers' video letters

Editorial Reviews

The tragic and grisly photograph--a woman on a motel floor, dead after an illegal abortion--stirred a nation and inflamed a movement. Now, LEONA S SISTER GERRI tells the powerful and thought-provoking story of the anonymous woman behind the image and how she became an extraordinary icon for the ever-controversial abortion issue. Through tears and laughter, Gerri Santoro s tale of desperation in the days before legal abortion unfolds in an intimate, unpretentious style (The New York Times) as told by her family and friends.

Gerri was a tree-climbing kid who grew up on the family farm, then a spirited adolescent, a young wife, and later the devoted mother of two little girls. But she was also a battered wife who suffered years of abuse before eventually leaving her husband and returning to Connecticut. There Gerri became pregnant by a lover who agreed to perform an abortion and then left her when the operation went awry. Nine years later, in 1973, Ms. magazine published the heart-wrenching photo, which even now cries out from protest placards as a potent symbol in the struggle for a woman s right to choose.

Directed by Jane Gillooly, rousing and all-too-real, LEONA S SISTER GERRI cuts through the leaden rhetoric of one of America s most divisive issues to pay respects to an extraordinary woman and her tale.

Special Features:

Filmmaker Interview; Viewers Video Letters; Filmmaker Biography

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Indictment July 22, 2008
I believe I saw this documentary on public television as part of their Independent Focus documentary quite a few years ago. I've never forgotten it, because it haunts me still. From time to time, I would search on the web to find out the name of the film. All I could remember is the subject of the film was "sister Gerri." I'm so glad I was able to connect the dots through Google to finally find the correct title of this stunning documentary.

The image that remains in my mind is the central focus of this story. It's a startling B&W police photo (think Wee Gee) of a naked woman bent over and face down on the rug in a hotel room, her pocket book at her side and blood spattered on the carpet. She was the victim of an illegal abortion performed in that very hotel room. The woman was married w/ children and became pregnant through an affair. It was the early 60s and abortions were illegal. She was given the botched procedure and left there alone to die. What a stunning indictment of our country's abortion policy in the pre Roe v. Wade days. You hear from Gerri's sister and Gerri's own children in the film. At one point Gerri sister Leona realizes that, after seeing this crime scene photo, which was being used as a poster in pro-choice marches, actually depicted her own sibling. Gerri had literally become the poster child for pro-choice feminists who rightfully or wrongfully saw this photo as a way to reveal the true horror of illegal abortion.

Caution: This is strong stuff, and I wouldn't recommend for children or the faint of heart.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This my Aunt May 24, 2007
This is my Aunt Gerry. When I was little I was told that she lost her baby while bowling. Then she was gone, leaving my 2 cousins with their father. They left for California. Both had a series of bad marriages, drug problems, etc. One went into the Marines, one married a musician. I only hear tragic tales of their paths. I don't wonder why. I find fault with the air of hush-hush of the times, but can understand how she came to this path. The child of farmer immigrants, there was no example set, not enough time to love and protect. Set out like wild animal babies, they all made due with what they had. What they had was also what they gave their children; myself, cousins, and siblings included. We make choices...she made choices. I had an abortion at 15, then at 18 with a tubal. Worst thing I ever did...EVER. But I made those choices and will bear myself. Abortion must remain legal, but with a broad taste of consultations to be mandatory.

Leona is my Mother.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and heart breaking July 16, 2008
By Ginger
Wonderful and tragic film. I would like to thank all involved, especially Leona... how painful doing this must have been, such a brave lady to share this story with us. People need to see the human face of this issue, and this film does it so well, with such respect... More respect than Gerri was shown by those she mistakenly relied on in her life. Just looking at her simple purse, found at the scene brings tears to my eyes.

I first saw the infamous photo of Gerri in the Village Voice, reprinted many years after the event - my stomach dropped and my blood ran cold. It is a simple picture...yet so very heartbreaking. My generation did not have to endure this fate...but it could be that way again. I agree with the sentiment "Never Again". Women should not die needlessly for someone else's self righteous ideals. Life is messy, everything isn't black and white. Everyone should see this, regardless of where they stand politically on this issue. This film shows that it isn't just about ideology - this is about people.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Mother My Aunt February 13, 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I finally got up the nerve to buy this and view it again. My first viewing was at Jane Gilooly's first showing, In Boston, beside my mother, Leona Gordon. It is powerful, it is tragic and it is, for good reason, a cautionary tale. What happened in my family was NOT just about my family but about a society at a specific time. I encourage people to watch this and bear in mind just how easily the theft of personal freedom can become deadly. Unlike the European Holocaust or Rwandan Genocide whose events slap us in the face with a renewed sense of defending democracy and human rights, this very personal and real account reminds us that human right are in fact INDIVIDUAL rights. What happened to my Aunt, to my whole family is not a done deal. It ISN'T over as long as people are willing be misled into throwing religion and politics up as a barrier to individual rights. The SANCTITY of live lies first with the living.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable March 23, 2010
I am not family or friend of Gerri Santoro. And I am also too young to have originally seen 'the photo' which galvanized the young pro-choice movement into action. Her image from the CT coroner's office was later published in one of the first issues of an also-fledgling Ms. magazine.

But this doccumentary leaves quite an impression on you. And you also hear from the children she did have prior to having died from that illegal abortion.

They are passionate that if abortion had been legal, their mother would have lived and their family would not have undergone their tragedy. The doccumentary advocates a pro-choice perspective, but it acchieves this through focusing on the life and times of Gerri Santoro.

Because opponents wanting to take us back to those 'good old days' attempt to play on the emotionally-loaded images of family and/or children, actually hearing what children and family really do think about having family members die from an illegal abortion is what leaves the powerful statement.
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