Silver Sling, an 11-minute film by director Tze Chun, is another cinematic gem from the Future States series that Biopolitical Timesblogged on last week. The film presents a future scenario in which affluent couples hire young women, some of them immigrants, to undergo "accelerated pregnancies" lasting only three months. Surrogates can undergo three such pregnancies before becoming sterile.
Chun incorporates elements that might strike some as purely science fiction, but which bear unsettling resemblances to the practices of some surrogacy clinics and brokers today. For example, the film portrays the concept of accelerated pregnancy as a means of convenience and time efficiency for impatient wealthy clients.
"In a world where you shouldn't have to wait for anything, why wait nine months for your child to be born?"
Similarly (though real-life this time), certain well-known surrogacy brokers partner with overseas clinics to lower costs, buyer risk, waiting periods and commercial appeal. One arrangement gives clients the option of having embryos implanted in multiple surrogates simultaneously, thus increasing their chances of attaining a successful pregnancy on the first try.
As part of their contracts, surrogates in Silver Sling are required to live in sterile controlled quarters for the duration of their pregnancies. Several actual clinics, which are often backed by overseas broker contracts, require surrogates to live in on-site dormitories away from their families for their nine-month pregnancies.
The film is accompanied by educational materials [pdf], with lesson plans and readings (including a fine article by Abigail Haworth, which Biopolitical Times also blogged on) that challenge students to think about the ethical and human rights implications of commercial surrogacy.
Silver Sling projects one way that assisted reproduction, economic polarization and the market-driven commodification of birth could unfold. The touching futuristic story it tells is disquieting on many levels. More disturbing, however, is the degree to which the science fiction of Silver Sling mirrors the non-fiction of the present.