When filmmaker Judith Helfand was 25, she learned she had a rare cervical cancer. The cause was the synthetic hormone DES (diethylstilbestrol), a drug her mother had taken to prevent miscarriages. This led to a radical hysterectomy for Judith and a five-year cinematic odyssey that tells an unforgettable story of mother-daughter love, guilt and corporate confrontation. In 1971 the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of DES in the U.S. But for more than 30 years, pharmaceutical companies sold DES even knowing that the drug was ineffective and carcinogenic. Jewish women were disproportionately exposed; Nassau County, New York, where Judith was born, has one of the highest rates of DES exposure in the country. A HEALTHY BABY GIRL is a searing exploration of what happens when science, marketing and corporate ambition merge. The film also asks individuals, families and the Jewish community to reframe traditional concepts of continuity, and suggests new models for mourning the loss of fertility. 1997 Sundance Film Festival.
Judith Helfand is an independent film and video maker based in New York. She co-produced and co-directed with George Stoney The Uprising of '34, an award- winning documentary that draws on the hidden history of the General Textile Strike of 1934 to explore labor, power and economics in the South today. With this film, Helfand developed a series of "Using History as an Organizing Tool" workshops, which evolved into the nationwide "Labor to Neighbor" campaign at the time of the film's broadcast on the PBS series P.O.V. in June of 1995.
She worked as an associate producer on two other PBS documentaries: Broken Minds, a Frontline episode directed by DeWitt Sage on the treatment and mistreatment of schizophrenia and the homeless mentally ill, and Through the Wire, Nina Rosenblum's film about an experimental maximum security unit for women political prisoners in the U.S., which was aired on P.O.V. She is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Undergraduate Film and Television Program.
Prior to focusing on documentaries, Helfand worked for three years at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research as a production associate on the archival photo video-disk People of a Thousand Towns: A Visual Encyclopedia of Jewish Eastern Europe 1865-1939.
She has run video and media literacy workshops with textile workers, community organizers in the South and designed a video production program for homeless mentally ill adults in New York City. Over the past year she has been working in collaboration with social studies teachers on an interactive curriculum using The Uprising of '34 to "Link the Classroom to the Community."
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
1997 Sundance Film Festival, Documentary competition
June 1997, broadcast nationally the PBS series P.O.V.
1997 San Francisco Jewish Film festival