around having a baby and not having a baby were
painful and it was an atomic war and my atomic
bomb was 'I’m leaving' and yours was 'I’m
having a child'. Sooner or later you realise
that if you drop the bomb first you win."
began with them arguing about a baby.
It ended where they never imagined.
For a few years now, people have
been talking about the ways the new technology
of small digital cameras will revolutionise
documentary filmmaking. Primarily by allowing
the camera to get closer to the subject than
LOSING LAYLA is a documentary
spawned by this revolution. It is a deeply personal,
intimate video diary that follows the lives
of two lovers through an extraordinary passage
in their lives.
We meet Michael and Vanessa, two
thirty-something seachangers from Sydney living
near Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales,
Australia. They are in the middle of the modern
day war- when to have a baby. She’s a
ticking desperado, he wants to run a mile.
Vanessa dropped the bomb first
and became pregnant.
For sometime, their relationship
had been a threesome; Michael, Vanessa and the
Digicam. Now the camera enters the bedroom,
the bathroom and the kitchen and follows their
progress through the pregnancy; recording Vanessa’s
rising excitement and Michael’s rising
anxiety. As a documentary director with 15 years
experience, Vanessa Gorman set out to make a
film that would chronicle the impact of a baby
on their relationship and how that baby would
change their lives.
But what happened then was something
that would change their lives in a way they
never expected. After a robustly healthy pregnancy,
Vanessa is in labour the day after Valentines
Day in the year 2000. Friend and filmmaker Cathy
Henkyl arrives to take over the filming and
captures the visceral drama of a long and difficult
labour. After twenty hours the baby is in distress
and Vanessa is wheeled upstairs for an emergency
caesarean. Layla is born with respiratory distress
from meconium inhalation and over the next few
hours struggles for breath. Michael the reluctant
sperm donor is suddenly a father, holding his
daughter’s hand and willing her to live.
She is airlifted to Brisbane but dies eight
hours after birth in Michael’s arms.
In the days, weeks and months
after Layla’s death, the already present
camera is witness to some of the rawest scenes
of grief ever captured. But grief is only a
word that describes the journey of living so
many emotions. There are tears and despair,
envy and rage but there is also laughter, love
and beauty that arises from the depths of every
parents worst nightmare.
LOSING LAYLA is an emotional journey
that bears witness to a loss that has so often
in the past been minimised and seen as ‘less
than’ other deaths or losses.
It is also a powerful testament
to the notion that the journey of grief is not
about the resolution of our most painful emotions
but about accepting them and allowing them to
deepen and soften us.
LOSING LAYLA is ultimately the story of two
lovers navigating their way through the territory
of the heart , attempting to live their truth
and their grief as openly as they live their
laughter and their love.
A year and
a half after the documentary Losing Layla
aired, ABC TV’s Australian Story
aired a follow up half hour called Regarding
Raphael. This program chronicled meeting
Vanessa’s partner James, the pregnancy
and birth of her next child Raphael and
the reality of becoming a parent. The
DVD of Losing Layla also includes Regarding
Raphael plus a home movie follow-up featuring
Raphael three years on and the birth of
her baby daughter Francesca in May 2005.
with son Raphael
PRODUCED BY HATCHLING PRODUCTIONS
Producer - CATHY HENKYL
Writer/Director - VANESSA GORMAN
Editor - HARRIET CLUTTERBUCK
AN ABC / FFC ACCORD DOCUMENTARY
Executive Producer (ABC) - DASCHA ROSS