Bloody Hormones

Together with their mothers the filmmakers take a look back on their teenage years, when the first boyfriend was the reason to start taking the pill. Fifteen years later, doubt kicks in; what do these hormones actually do to you? Through the lens, the makers explore the natural cycle of their own bodies and the experiences of other women. In the 1960s the pill brought women sexual liberation, what does this pill mean for girls and women of today?

  • Brigitte Borm
  • Dorien Pfauth
  • Marrit Greidanus
  • Denisa Uherová
    Sound Recording
  • Brigitte Borm
  • Dorien Pfauth
  • Nina de Vroome
    Sound Design
  • Raf Enckels
    Audio Mix
  • Lennert de Taeye
    Color Grading
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Bloody Hormones
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    36 minutes 29 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 1, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Ghent
    June 20, 2019
    closed graduation screenings KASK
    Best Film/ Documentary
  • Eindhovens Film Festival
    November 28, 2019
    National premiere
Director Biography - Brigitte Borm , Dorien Pfauth

Brigitte Borm and Dorien Pfauth met whilst volunteering at a cultural festival and have since worked together on several projects. Their debut short documentary, Bloody Hormones, has been the result of a two-year-collaboration.

Dorien and Brigitte both like to work with themes close to them but that also include social relevance, through a small-scale and self-reflective approach to filmmaking. Moreover, they share the ambition to make documentaries from an open and critical perspective in which norms and values within our society are questioned.

Brigitte Borm holds a Master of Science in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam (cum laude) and a Master of Arts in Visual Anthropology from the Free University of Berlin (cum laude).

Dorien Pfauth holds a a bachelor degree in Media and Culture - Film and Visual Culture - at the University of Amsterdam and a master degree in Audiovisual Arts (Film) with the highest distinction at the KASK (School of Arts) in Ghent.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

“Conversation about the pill at the doctor. Dorien is confident, making jokes and a clear argument. Afterwards we cycled home, talked about it a little bit more and of course did some shopping. Lipsticks.”

The above quote comes from my mother's diary. Together with her, I visited the doctor as a teenager to start taking the pill. I specifically remember the inconvenience on forehand of discussing such a sex-related topics with my doctor in the presence of my mother. Although sex was not discussed at all during the consultation, seeing as I wanted to start taking the pill due to too many pimples and suffering from period cramps. The doctor didn’t look for alternative solutions and prescribed a "light pill" without providing much more information. A few years later I decided to switch to the hormonal vaginal ring, so I wouldn’t have to think about taking the pill daily and instead would put a ring in each month.

After many years of using hormonal contraception, something changes for us: we have had enough. We didn’t want to have this thing inside me anymore, possibly changing the way we felt, experienced things or the way our bodies behaved. Looking for information about a hormone-free alternative, we both came across many articles about the possible side effects of the pill. Gradually it became clear that we no longer wanted to use hormonal contraception. We wanted to know who we are without the use of synthetic hormones. How is it possible that the pill can have such major side effects and yet so few women know about them? Why is it normal to take the pill from such a young age and whilst so uninformed? Out of this outrage, sprang the idea for us to make Bloody Hormones.

The pill strip crunches around a hundred million times a day worldwide. With the arrival of the pill in the 1960s, nothing stood in the way of greater sexual freedom for women. I am also grateful that my sexual adventures did not lead to a host of children. Thanks to the pill, birth planning is possible, so that women's emancipation grows. But the fact that the pill has been important for women's empowerment, doesn’t mean it cannot be called into question. Since its inception, there have also been many stories from women who experience that the pill, for example, makes them depressed, causes anxiety or stress, reduces their creativity or ambition and paralyses sensory sensitivity and/or libido. Ironically, the pill that meant the liberation of women, which offers the possibility of carefree sex, also limits our enjoyment of it. The results of a recent Danish study show that pill users have a 23 percent higher chance of suffering from depression compared to non-users. With teenagers, that chance is even 80 percent higher. In the meantime, doctors continue to prescribe the pill to young girls in large numbers, often without pointing out the possible side effects. The money generated by the pill probably explains the lack of a user-friendly, hormone-free alternative. The necessity is lacking, because women still take the pill. Only a few seem to care that we can lose parts of our identity and health alongside it.

But we do care about it. With Bloody Hormones we want to share our outrage about - and experience with - contraception. We ourselves have experienced how poorly informed we are about the operation of the pill and our body. We feel the need to share our knowledge about hormonal contraception and our search for alternatives. In making the film, we have always sought a balance between showing the concrete information and the intangible world of our feelings. Our film focuses primarily on experience and not on facts or evidence. We explore our natural cycles, which have been suppressed by the synthetic hormones of contraception for all those years, and want to share this exploration. We want to rid ourselves of our shame about menstruation - which is also part of that cycle - by filming our periods and thus giving visibility to a taboo. We do not want to romanticise or shock, but portray it without giving it too much weight, because it is a natural part of us and it should not be something to be ashamed of. Our experiences may seem very personal, but research shows that they are shared by many women: many of our peers are also tired of taking the pill. Personal experiences become collective; a relatable matter for all of us and a relevant starting point for our film. The personal is political. Our film not only shows our story, but also those of other young women. These personal experiences, ours and our mothers, hopefully contain a universally recognisable element. For example, the interviews with our mothers not only tell our story, but also implicitly that of a culture in which the pill-norm prevails, containing many mothers and daughters like us. By acknowledging our presence in the scenes with our mothers and other characters in the film - by not cutting away our responses and questions and showing the rough camera movements and search for frame and focus - we try to give visibility to our relationship with them, removing the suggestion of neutrality and reflecting our subjective position. In the sound we want to strengthen our experience and make it tangible for the viewer. Through the whispered days, months, years, moon phases and seasons in the film, we emphasise the cyclical nature of our body and the repetitiveness and endlessness of swallowing the pill. In this way we try to create an intimate and embodied atmosphere that invites the viewer to join us in our emotional world. Through the texts in our film, we try to lead the viewer into our stream of thoughts and doubts, so as to invite them to think about our issues relating to our body and our choices regarding contraception.

Alongside our story we place the promoters of the pill: the general practitioners, the pharmaceutical industry behind it and the generation that received the pill full of praise. They make the promotion of the pill tangible and get a place in our film through the use of archive material and through the memories of our mothers. On the other hand there is a large group of women of today, who, just like the women of the past, come together to discuss the pill. But from a completely different perspective: whilst the women of the time felt liberated by the pill, many women today feel trapped in the pill-norm.

We hope that Bloody Hormones opens the viewer to critical dialogue about the pill and its synthetic hormones and to openness about related experiences and menstruation. Because if nobody talks about it, we will know too little about it.