The Baby Carriers
A documentary on international surrogacy in America.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of three individuals working in the international surrogacy industry intertwine as they struggle to adapt to the new challenges.
Throughout the course of a year and a half, The Baby Carriers follows the lives of three characters in the surrogacy industry and examines the impact of the pandemic on their lives – Alan, a California-based Chinese agent, has to fly all over the country picking up clients’ babies and find helpers to send them back to China; Tonia, a young surrogate, transits to become the nanny as the pandemic delays the parents’ arrival; and Vivien, the passionate and charismatic founder of a Sino-U.S. surrogate agency, decides to go through IVF herself to expand her family.
I met Vivien, the founder of a Sino-US surrogacy agency, in the beginning of 2020, and that’s how I started to learn about surrogacy for the first time. In China, surrogacy is prohibited and, if ever discussed by the press, it’s oftentimes related to negative news. As a well-off Chinese immigrant with financial freedom, Vivien could have chosen any industry to invest in. But why this controversial one? There is a clear pride and satisfaction in her voice when she speaks about her profession. And it is even more so when I started talking to the American surrogate mothers. Like most of the people outside the circle, I used to assume surrogate mothers to be women living in poverty who have no other option of income. But in reality, here in California, they are mainly women with decent jobs and a caring personality who share a strong compassion towards those unable to have their own children. What I found most amazing is, that despite their complexity and uncertain nature, international surrogacy cases can actually be completed successfully one after another.
However, each case can easily take up to two years, from the pairing up with surrogate mothers all the way to the successful delivery of a baby. The tedious work requires the coordination of 6-7 parties, if not more, covering aspects such as medical, law, finance, etc. Things only grew more challenging when the pandemic hit in 2020, which led to the country to shut off its border. Everyone in the business had to figure out their own solutions.
How stressful is this process for the intended parents when they have such little control? What happens when complications occur during pregnancy? Who will protect the surrogate mothers’ or the intended parents’ rights? This is a film where I try to answer these questions.
Allysa Sing Creative Producer
Born and raised in Singapore, Allysa is a fellow Chapman alum. She has written and directed several short films that have played in film festivals worldwide, including the Asian-American International Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Festival. She was a producer at Mediacorp, one of the leading broadcasters in Singapore. She has been recognized for her work with an AME Award, PromaxBDA Global Excellence Award, Promax Asia award, and Singapore Hall of Fame award. Her video artwork has also been exhibited internationally, including the BIDEODROMO International Experimental Film and Video Festival and SIMULTAN Festival. She is currently a producing mentee of the Women Wednesdays BIPOC Next Gen Mentorship Program and working on multiple projects.
Paloma Chen Director, Producer
Graduated from Chapman University (Film Directing) and Sichuan University (Journalism), Paloma Lingwei Chen was raised trilingual in Beijing, to a Spanish father and a Chinese mother. She worked as a video journalist in Guangzhou, China for three years, and covered diverse topics from gourmet, tourism, outdoor to pop culture. In 2016, she relocated to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking. Her graduate thesis, El Perfumista, received national recognition and screened in top American festivals such as Mill Valley and Sedona International Film Festival. By day, Paloma works as a producer/director for a Chinese media company, creating docu-series that explore American lifestyle.
Peiyan Xia China Field Director
As a documentarian, Peiyan focuses on examining contemporary settings and lifestyles of marginal groups in mainland China. He has an MFA in documentary filmmaking from Chapman University and a background in sociology. Peiyan is the winner of the outstanding award for the 11th Science and Technology College competition of Hubei Province, “Challenge Cup” research project. His documentary, Days of the Blind, centering on the daily ups and downs of a group of blind seniors who live in an abandoned community in Wuhan, is an official selection of the 2019 LA Independent Film Festival.
Starry Ye Associate Producer
Graduated from Chapman University with a B.A. in Film Studies, Starry has worked professionally as the HLN Specials intern at CNN in true crime documentaries. She has participated in most areas of docu-series production. During the years at Dodge College, Starry has written, directed, and edited six short films. FRIGHTENED was an official selection by Chiayi International Art Film Festival in Taiwan. Starry is also a published author for China Daily News and has been actively writing for Chinese newspapers for over ten years. Starry is enthusiastic about storytelling and filmmaking along the way.
Sylvia Cong Editor
Sylvia Cong is an experienced film/documentary editor based in LA and SHANGHAI. Except for an MFA in film production from Chapman University, Sylvia also has a BA in Art History. She enjoys editing with an artistic mind and always brings aesthetic take to projects. Her and Paloma has been working together since 2016. In her free time, Sylvia is also a production designer and set decorator. She believes art will always be the way to open up her heart.
OUR FILM IS SPONSORED BY A NON-PROFIT SO ALL DONATIONS IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE.