||At a time when more women than ever are getting breast
implants, fewer voices than ever seem to be asking “Why?”
And fewer still are asking “Are they safe?” ABSOLUTELY
SAFE takes an open-minded, personal approach to the controversy
over breast implant safety. Ultimately, ABSOLUTELY
SAFE is the story of everyday women who find themselves and
their breasts in the tangled and confusing intersection of health,
money, science, and beauty.
At its heart, ABSOLUTELY SAFE
is driven by the experience of the filmmaker’s own mother.
Diagnosed in 1974 with breast tumors, Audrey
Ciancutti underwent a double mastectomy with silicone-implant
reconstruction surgery. A year later, her implants ruptured, and
soon after, her health steadily declined. Like thousands of other
women, Audrey believes her debilitating illnesses—joint pain,
chronic fatigue, scleroderma-- are linked to her breast implants;
however, most doctors and researchers deny this link. Among the
debate by plastic surgeons, toxicologists, attorneys, implant manufacturers,
whistle blowers, government officials and activists, ABSOLUTELY
SAFE introduces more everyday women like Audrey who make
choices about their breasts in our appearance driven culture.
27 year-old Deneé
Dimiceli has long been insecure about her breast size,
and she’s frank about why: a deep envy of pop culture icons
and images of big-breasted women. Although her husband likes her
breasts as they are and does not want her to take any risks by having
surgery, Deneé chooses to go ahead with breast augmentation.
Step by step, the film follows Deneé through the implantation
process. With the help of renowned plastic surgeon Dr.
Franklin Rose, Deneé becomes the “Full C”
she has longed to be. Months after surgery, Deneé is happy
and healthy, though she initially lost sensation in her breasts.
As Deneé makes the choice to get breast implants, we meet
Myers who has spent years longing for a life without
implants. After suffering unexplained illnesses for years—dizziness,
hair loss, fatigue—Wendi believes her silicone implants are
making her sick and that they are ruptured, even though the implants
appear to be in tact. With the financial help
from her mother and the surgical skill of Dr.
Edward Melmed, one of the few plastic surgeons in this
country who argues that implants have severe flaws and cause illness
in some women, Wendi makes a unique choice—to have her breast
implants “ex-planted” and removed from her body forever.
The remnants of Wendi’s implants, are an alarming discovery
for Wendi and her family.
and Drug Administration (FDA) stands as the only traffic light
at the implant intersection, for it is ultimately left to the FDA
to analyze data and define risk. Billions are at stake as implant
manufacturers lobby the FDA for approval of silicone implants and
present studies which support no link between breast implants and
disease. A data
debate is at the heart of the FDA decision. Dissecting
industry-sponsored safety research, a public interest watchdog acknowledges
that the data does not prove a link between implants and illness,
but probes the fact that the majority of the studies were based
research. Meanwhile, physicians Dr.
Ernest Lykissa and Dr.
Michael Harbut maintain there are dangers associated
with the platinum used in the making of breast implants. Dr. Lykissa,
who studies chemical compositions of ruptured implants, wonders
why there have not been any required studies on failed implants.
The story of ABSOLUTELY SAFE
always returns to the women and girls who stand front and center—both
willingly and unwillingly—in the traffic jam of beauty, media,
risk, and “choice.” The quest for physical perfection
leads the film’s characters to operating rooms, support groups,
hospital beds, and public hearings. In a plastic surgeon’s
waiting room, a patient is both enthusiastic about her own silicone
implants and also shocked by tales of family friends with implant
ruptures and sickness. At a support group of breast cancer survivors
with failed breast implants, group leader and photographer Anne
Stansell reveals that she never had the option to live without
implants after mastectomy—her implants were presented as a
given part of her treatment package. At a discussion with 8 year-old
girls, the pre-teens flip through magazines rating beauty and breasts
with sharp, judgmental tongue. Shockingly, the quest to be the “ideal
beauty” begins long before breasts grow.
Even though the FDA
recently lifted its restrictions on silicone implants and approved
them for wide-scale use, many serious questions remain regarding
breast implant safety. However, ABSOLUTELY
SAFE reveals that the conversation on implant safety is far
more complex than simple pros and cons. Rather, the real conversation,
the most important conversation—with the most difficult and
challenging questions—rests with viewers themselves, as all
individuals in our culture ultimately face this confusing intersection
of choice, risk, money, beauty, and health.
ABSOLUTELY SAFE sparks
this long overdue cultural conversation.