- James Lee (Kexian Li)
Broker: What is the best for the baby?
In June of 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, a case from nearly half a century ago, concerning the constitutional right to abortion access. This shocking news brings a question: we are talking about abortion, but what is best for the baby?
Written and directed by Cannes Film Festival - Jury Prize winner Hirokazu Koreeda known for films like Nobody Knows (2004) and Like Father Like Son (2013), the 2022 Japanese drama Broker stars international A-listers Song Kang-ho known for the 2019 hit film Parasite, Dong-won Gang, Bae Doona, and Korean idol Ji-eun Lee. The film follows a young lady who decides to give up her newborn child to a church for adoption but discovers that there is an active group that steals these children for sale. She catches the group red-handed and joins them on an exciting road trip to find customers ready to buy the child. Things don’t go smoothly since two police officers are hot on their trail, and things get complicated.
The film was selected to compete for the highest prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Ecumenical Jury Award and the Best Actor Award for Kang-ho. The idea for Broker was initially conceived by Koreeda who, while researching the Japanese adoption system for his 2013 film Like Father, Like Son, discovered its similarities with the South Korean adoption system. He learned about Japan's baby box, a place where people can anonymously leave children, and the criticism surrounding the system in Japan. It can be found worldwide, including in South Korea, which is much more popular than in Japan.
The story revolves around the themes of birth families, children, fertility rates, and young single mothers exposing the problems prevalent in developed societies. According to recent data, the fertility rate in the US is 1.782 births per woman while South Korea’s is 0.84. In 2020, the worldwide average fertility rate was 2.39 births per woman. The low fertility rate reveals many social problems in developed countries.
The financial pressure is undeniable for the younger generation. Many young families cannot afford the cost of raising children. And according to a federal survey, about 22,000 newborns are discarded each year. Young families show instability regarding contraceptive measures and the decision to have a child.
The central theme of the film focuses on the sale of the child. The reason the main character joins the brokers to find a buyer for her child is that the baby's father was a gangster and she was forced to carry the child to term. Later her motivation changed and she felt she was unable to take care of the child so she wanted to find a better family for them. Many people likely have questions about why they choose to have a child in the first place. The choice to have an abortion is complex and painful from a woman's point of view, and it is not an easy decision to make either way. In any case, the freedom to decide needs to be put in the hands of women, because either decision should be theirs to make. The overturning of the bill takes away women's right to choose. This leads to the story in the movie which exacerbates the creation of the illegal cases depicted. In the film, the character doesn’t want to keep the child which gives the opportunity for brokers to break the law. The story is a warning of how real-life restrictions to abortion access could simultaneously increase the rate of child trafficking.
Another theme in the movie is the trafficking of children. Although the human trafficking organization in the story may seem like a mobile orphanage, this organization is outside the law and their actions are illegal regardless of their motivation. The relationship between supply and demand is clear in the story; some people want to buy the child, others want to sell it, and the broker is the middleman. Past figures show that 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide each year, including 50,000 in the United States. These staggering figures reveal a gray industry chain. Such a chain exists in any country or region. If we want to cut off this chain, we must start from the root of the problem. In addition to interrupting the supply and demand from both ends, we must also give women enough rights to decide whether to have children or not.
Roe v Wade was overturned causing harm to women who could not afford to support or were pregnant in an unplanned pregnancy. As mentioned in the movie, the child itself is innocent, yet whether or not the child is born into the world will play a vital role in the child's future development. Children do not have a choice when it comes to being born, but who will bear the pain and consequences when they go into the world without the ability to enjoy their human rights and grow up in a safe and healthy environment? I hope this film will give you the answer. What is the best for the baby? To birth or not to birth, that is a question.