The Good Breast
Directed by Bernadette Wegenstein • Documentary • 2016 • 94 minutes
THE GOOD BREAST explores breast cancer as ritual, presenting today's rise of the mastectomy in the U.S. as a modern form of breast sacrifice.
The no-nonsense veteran breast cancer surgeon Dr. Lauren Schnaper believes that fear and ignorance are fueling an alarming rate of medically unnecessary mastectomies in America. But for the four women allowing us intimate access to their mastectomies and their individual and most personal breast reconstructions, their search for the 'good breast' is a necessity. We witness the ups and downs of the women's breast loss and reconstructions, from the collateral damage of infected implants and dying flaps to a cosmetic nipple exchange, and a miraculous Lat Dorsi breast reconstruction.
The film blends archival medical films and the history of the mastectomy since William S. Halsted with the surprising journey taken by Dr. Schnaper and her partner, the plastic surgeon Dr. Slezak, to Catania, Sicily, to experience Saint Agatha, the annual festival of the breast and third largest such celebration in the world. What the doctors learn about the Sicilian saint of the breast as an ancient symbol of female strength leads to a provocative connection between our contemporary American culture of the mastectomy and this ancient veneration of the breast.
The loss of the breast of each of our patient characters illustrates that the breast is far more than just an organ; but rather contains within it the history, suffering and power of female identity.