Bei Bei

Bei Bei Shuai, a 33-year-old restaurant owner with no criminal history, spent 435 days in an Indianapolis county jail. Her crime? Attempting suicide while pregnant. 

 

Short Synopsis

A Chinese immigrant named Bei Bei Shuai is forced to fight murder charges after attempting suicide while pregnant. Capturing the high stakes of her legal proceedings, Bei Bei will navigate the nuances of reproductive justice, incarceration of the mentally ill, and immigrant rights.

By weaving Shuai’s personal story with the dramatic intensity of a high stakes murder case, Bei Bei provides a deeper understanding of reproductive justice by illuminating the intersections of immigrants rights, accessible treatment for mental illness, and the criminal justice system, exposing the tremendous power the state has over vulnerable individuals.

Bei Bei Shuai was charged with murder after attempting suicide while pregnant. She was charged under a ‘fetal personhood’ law supported by then Governor Mike Pence, a proponent of the these laws -- which are disproportionately used against women of color -- as a means to undermine Roe v. Wade. This is Bei Bei’s story.

 

About the project

Over 600 pregnant women in the United States have been charged with crimes under so-called ‘fetal personhood’ laws, adopted in 37 states by anti-choice lawmakers as part of a strategy to trigger a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade. In 2011, Bei Bei Shuai, a 33 year-old Chinese immigrant, got caught in the crossfire of abortion politics when the state of Indiana charged her with feticide after she attempted to commit suicide while pregnant. 

The case became a cause célèbre around the world, with the woman at the center a ‘victim’ or a ‘villain’ depending on the political bent of the beholder. Bei Bei tells the story the public didn’t see: Bei Bei grieving the loss of her child while trying to regain her mental health and face murder charges, the fierce attorney who fought tooth and nail to keep her out of jail, and the communities who came together to protest a prosecution many felt was a witch hunt. 

Bei Bei is the fifth film about reproductive rights, health, and justice we’ve produced over the last 25 years. Over all that time, one fact has remained the same: women of color are the most impacted by anti-choice efforts to impede access to health care, and the most likely to face criminal prosecution, deportation, and other systemic punishment for actions taken when they are pregnant. 

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Illustration by Katherine Killeffer

Illustration by Katherine Killeffer

Just as Bei Bei’s case was resolving, Indiana brought feticide charges against another woman of color, Purvi Patel, who was convicted. She was later released on appeal, but the precedent had been set—pregnant women’s bodies, especially those of the most marginalized women, are fair game for policing by the state, and their wombs are the legal and political battlefield on which the new culture wars are going to be waged. 

We have big plans for this film, and we’re partnering with organizations in the reproductive justice, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform movements to get this story into the communities who most need to see it, and empowering viewers to use it to make change in their cities and states. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) have stood by Bei Bei’s side since she was first charged, and we’re thrilled they’re our primary partners guiding the outreach and engagement. 

Bei Bei is so close to done we can see the finish line, but we need finishing funds to get it on to screens and into the hands of folks who will use it to make change. Please join our team and help get Bei Bei’s story out into the world!

about The team

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Marion Lipschutz (co-Director/Producer) and Rose Rosenblatt (co-Director/Editor)

Marion and Rose are partners that form Cine Qua Non (CQN), a not-for-profit company dedicated to producing award-winning documentaries, media and engagement campaigns that inform, educate, and entertain the general public about critical social issues. The previous four films that Marion and Rose have co-directed/co-produced, along with the current project Bei Bei, make up a body of work about women whose personal stories illuminate key themes and intersections around sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice. Previous work includes: The Abortion Pill (PBS National, 1998), Fatherhood USA (PBS National, 1999), Live Free or Die (PBS Point of View, 2002), The Education of Shelby Knox (PBS Point of View, 2005), and Young Lakota (PBS Independent Lens, 2013). Their films have been part of the Human Rights Film Festival and won top awards at Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, Sonoma, Cine Las Americas Film Festival, Full Frame, Smithsonian Native Cinema Showcase, Red Nation Film Festival, imagineNATIVE media and film arts festival, and Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

 
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Angie Wang (Executive Producer)

Angie has over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors working in the areas of women’s rights and social justice. Angie is Chief of Staff for Abigail E. Disney and her media and philanthropic initiatives, which include documentary film production company Fork Films; grant making organization, The Daphne Foundation; and non-profit organization, Peace is Loud, where she previously served as executive director. Angie was the outreach director for the PBS documentary film series Women, War & Peace. She has held senior leadership positions at The New York Women’s Foundation, The September 11th Fund and Safe Horizon. Angie is a founding member of the Asian Women Giving Circle,  an all-volunteer group pooling their resources to invest in projects that combine the power of arts and activism, led by Asian American women.

 
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Gary Griffin (Director of Photography)

Gary has been working with Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt since their first project, which chronicled a North Carolina community’s efforts to organize against a toxic waste treatment plant. The films that Gary has worked on have garnered major awards, including Best Cinematography for The Education of Shelby Knox at the Sundance Film Festival, the Academy Award winning program, Educating Peter, and the Academy Award nominated documentary about the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up and Sing. He has worked for numerous networks, on shows ranging from The Daily Show to Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends. He currently teaches at American University and at The Center for Independent Television Broadcast Journalism in Budapest and Prague.  He graduated from American University, with a BS in Film, Video, and Photography.

 
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Shelby Knox (Engagement & Outreach Director)

Shelby Knox is a widely sought-after speaker and prominent media commentator on feminism, reproductive justice, and digital organizing. Her high school activism for sex education and gay rights in her conservative Texas hometown was chronicled in Cine Qua Non’s The Education of Shelby Knox, which premiered on POV in 2005. Using PBS’ engagement tools, and trainings and workshops she developed herself, Shelby traveled across the country for the entirety of her college career using the film that bears her name as an organizing tool. She is the former Director of Women's Rights Organizing at change.org, a member of the ITVS Women & Girls Lead Council, and on the board of Know Your IX. She is concurrently serving as Engagement & Outreach Director for the Netflix documentary about the epidemic of sexual assault in high schools, Audrie & Daisy.

 
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Miriam Yeung (Engagement & Outreach Advisor)

Miriam Yeung is the former Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF). Prior to this position, Miriam held numerous positions at the NYC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center including the Director of Public Policy and Government Relations and as a youth worker. Miriam has also co-produced a documentary about the queer youth community of NYC entitled “I Look Up to the Sky Now." Miriam serves on the board of Generations Ahead. She received her MPA from Baruch College and her BA from NYU. Born in Hong Kong and raised in the projects of Brooklyn, Miriam is a proud, queer, immigrant, woman, activist, and parent to two spirited young girls.

 
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Alex Mason (Producer/Assistant Editor)

Alex began working with Incite Pictures in 2014. Previously Alex worked as an Associate Producer on the 2012 PBS documentary film Bill W. and as a post-production assistant on Almost Sunrise (2016). His visual art project Monkey Business was selected for Vanderbilt University's Carpenter Program 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition.