Belly of the Beast (2020)

  • Documentary
  • 1h 22m

– When a courageous young woman and a radical lawyer discover a pattern of illegal involuntary sterilizations in California’s women’s prison system, they take to the courtroom to wage a near-impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. With a growing team of investigators inside prison working with colleagues on the outside, they uncover a series of statewide crimes - from dangerously inadequate health care to sexual assault to coercive sterilizations - primarily targeting women of color. But no one believes them. This shocking legal drama captured over seven years features extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated women, demanding our attention to a shameful and ongoing legacy of eugenics and reproductive injustice in the United States.

“I have the power to change lives with the awareness of what happened to me.” - Kelli Dillon, Belly of the Beast

Thank you to everyone who joined our digital film festival screening + live Q&A on June 11. You can still watch the film at your own pace until June 20, and view the recording of the Q&A with filmmaker Erika Cohn, Producer Angela Tucker, HRW’s Women’s Rights Acting Co-Director Amanda Klasing & film participants Kelli Dillon & Cynthia Chandler here on our Facebook page or below in our “bonus content” section.

We do not want the cost of entry to these films to be a barrier for participation in these events. If the price of buying a ticket to any films in the festival would prevent you from participating, please email the following address ( + we will automatically send you a free ticket code. We have set aside a set # of tickets per film on a first come first-served basis. Once the free tickets are no longer available, the code will no longer work. For anyone that purchases a ticket, we appreciate your support. Your ticket purchase enables us to make tickets free for those who might otherwise be unable to watch. This also allows the festival to support the filmmakers for sharing their work in our festival and for the festival to cover the cost of hosting the films online.


Erika Cohn


Angela Tucker


Christen Marquez


Nicole Docta



Bonus Content

65 mins
LIVE Q&A for Belly of the Beast - HRWFF NY Digital Edition Opening Night

This live Q&A ran on Thursday June 11 w/ filmmaker Erika Cohn, Producer Angela Tucker, HRW’s Acting Women’s Rights Co-Director Amanda Klasing and film participants Kelli Dillon & Cynthia Chandler

5 mins
Black Women are Dying From Cervical Cancer in Alabama

The Federal and many state and local governments are not doing enough to prevent cervical cancer deaths, which are largely preventable. Approximately 4,200 women a year die in the United States from cervical cancer, including disproportionately high numbers of Black women.

State and federal policies contribute to a treacherous reproductive health environment in Alabama, where women are dying from cervical cancer at rates higher than in any other US state. Human Rights Watch’s report ‘It Should Not Happen, Alabama’s Failure to Prevent Cervical Cancer Death in the Black Belt’ presents the experiences of women mostly from the Alabama Black Belt, a largely rural region of Alabama that is primarily African American and has high rates of poverty and poor physical health. HRW found that governments are not doing enough to facilitate access to reproductive health care services and provide information to prevent these deaths.

Read the full report here, and download Belly of the Beast to access this video content.

5 mins
Japan: Compelled Sterilization of Transgender People

Japan’s government should stop forcing transgender people to be surgically sterilized if they want legal recognition of their gender identity. Requiring a medical intervention as a condition of having their gender identity legally recognized violates Japan’s human rights obligations and runs counter to international medical standards. Japan’s Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases (GID) Act harms transgender people who want to be legally recognized but cannot or do not want to undergo irreversible medical procedures like sterilization.

Read the full report here, and download Belly of the Beast to access this video content.

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