A professional gay male couple in Melbourne, Tony Wood and Lee Matthews, have been together for over 13 years. They were determined to have a child and briefly considered an arrangement with two lesbians, perhaps, but didn’t feel it right for them. Prevented from adopting a child or using IVF facilities, or commercial surrogacy in Australia, they embark on international surrogacy for their son, thanks to Junoa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA. It took three years and quite an emotional toll, not to mention a lot of money, and they had to overcome strenuous objections from both straight and gay friends.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
We follow the well-to-do expectant dads preparing the nursery, buying whatever their advisors in baby needs suggest. Everything money can buy … that includes the baby, at around US$75,000 in donor and surrogacy fees. Had these two guys been American, I can imagine the derision with which their story would be received here. As a documentary, Man Made is pretty straight forward. Dull, even, in parts, as we watch two guys waiting for their ‘bought’ baby, which is several days late.
It’s adequately made fly on the wall style, but by observing the traditions of the ‘distanced documentarian’, Emma Crimmings misses the opportunity to delve deeper into the psyche of this gay couple while we wait for the birth. The logistics of the preparations are mundane, after all. It’s a ‘this is what happened’ approach, and it seems rather superficial. It’s only the likeable surrogate mother, Junoa, who says anything remotely intimate or revealing about her motives as a young, happily married mother of two. She stresses how pride in her nurturing the baby counteracts the heartbreak. Her husband seems equally affable and his generosity in going along with her wish is notable. And even noble.
The two new dads say only that they feel they’d make good parents and that perhaps they would grow through the experience. They anticipate several questions, including: how will they explain themselves to the motherless child? Because this is not an adoption: they chose eggs from a donor, which Junoa carried to term after fertilisation. They propose to tell their son, Alexander: “at the end of the day, you have two dads and you don’t have a mum” which seems to open the way for much debate and many questions (eg how will they prepare him to deal with years of mockery at school), but this film does not go there.
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MAN MADE (PG)
The Story of Two Men and a Baby
CAST: Documentary featuring Lee Matthews and Tony Wood
PRODUCER: Toby Patten
DIRECTOR: Emma Crimmings
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jenni Meaney
EDITOR: Tony Stevens
MUSIC: Darrin Verhagen
RUNNING TIME: 52 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Big & Little Films, SBS Independent
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: October 16, 2003