Winner: 2010 Emmy Awards
"...Brilliantly made, "Google Baby" raises scary questions of our time..."
Wieland Speck, Berlinale, Jury statement Docaviv
"...Disturbing, confusing and thought provoking movie. Just as a documentary film should be."
"...The film takes you to a place that, if you weren't in this particular world you would never know it existed..."
"Brand Frank has a knack for gaining access to moments of powerful intimacy and anxiety. She elicits candid interviews and composes images that are worth a thousand words. The film swings from absurdity to profundity, and raises myriad questions..."
Thom Powers, Toronto Intl' Film Festival
"...A compelling documentary. An amazingly neutral hand as Ms. Brand Frank deftly avoids the clichés that typically materialize in any journalistic look at atypical reproduction"
New York Times
Google Baby is a journey across three continents telling the story of the up and coming baby production industry in the age of globalization.
Doron, an Israeli entrepreneur with a high tech background proposes a new service - Pregnancy producing. The pregnancy producer (as he introduces himself) provides customers with a cost effective solution using outsourcing of the surrogacy element to India as a way to lower prices. The preferred genetic material is selected by the clients from their computer: sperm and eggs are purchased on-line and multiple embryos are produced, frozen, packed and shipped by air to India - where they are implanted into the wombs of local surrogates. The customers arrive only at the end of the nine month pregnancy period to pick up their babies.
Today, technology has turned 'making a baby' into an act independent of sex. And globalization is making it affordable. All one needs is a credit card. Instructions can be found on YouTube.
I have a partiality for bulletin boards. During my fellowship at Harvard University, I noticed many posts on the campus bulletin boards offering $50,000-$70,000 for young, good looking, and highly educated women. I was intrigued by how technical baby making had become, and how pregnancy could be disassembled into its elements only to be put together again through an online mix-and-match.
The research and filming took nearly three years. As the work advanced I grew to realize that people are totally unaware of the fact that babies had become a commodity and it was becoming clear that globalization had a profound impact on the growing business of baby production. Local cost and legal obstacles are being addressed by an international global operation. We filmed in the USA, Israel and India, where we made three work trips over the course of the documentary. When we started filming in Dr. Patel’s clinic in Anand, India, she had 70 surrogate mothers in process. During our last filming session she had over 250 surrogates and other doctors in Mumbai started offering the same service. The field is obviously growing rapidly.
I can understand those who see the outsourcing of surrogacy to India, for a fraction of the price of western surrogates, as exploitation. However, after having spent considerable time in India, I am more inclined to accept Dr. Patel’s point of view and her feminist agenda as she perceives it. Dr. Patel believes that for these rural women in India, surrogacy is almost the only way to make a life changing move. They are transforming their lives and the lives of their families and children by making education and/or housing a viable option.
Yet this growing new industry also provokes a growing list of ethical questions. One example, that did not make it into the movie, was that of Manjhi, a Japanese baby girl born to a Japanese couple through a surrogate in India. Between the time she was conceived and her birth in India, the ordering parents divorced. Neither the would-be mother nor the father wanted the baby and they declined to come pick her up from the surrogate house in Anand. The Indian surrogate who gave birth to Manjhi was being pressured by local authorities in India to take her as her own. The Indian surrogate did not want to take Manjhi as her daughter and the Clinic supported her in a legal dispute against the state. Eventually Manjhi’s paternal grandmother decided to take care of her and Manjhi made her way to Tokyo three months after her birth.
I endeavored to keep any personal judgment on my part out of the movie. People tend to have strong opinions on these issues, and what is perceived as salvation to some, is viewed as diabolic by others. The situation will become even more complicated, as I believe that in the future, surrogacy will not only be used as a last resort but rather as an alternative for women who do not wish to have stretch marks or might not want to be pregnant because of their careers.
I believe the business aspects of the reproduction industry are intriguing as well as frightening. With an absence of moral rules or ethics, the global economy is exploited to its full measure. Thus, with no existing legal barriers to overcome and lots of money to be made, the human reproduction industry is steaming ahead. A cold and distant business reality guided only by the principles of the free market dealing with the most sensitive of issues. I tried through Google Baby to provide a glimpse of what I believe is likely to become a major concern for humanity in the future.
Dr. Nayna Patel is one of the leading specialists in IVF and has built a successful business offering Indian wombs for western customers. Dr. Patel’s clinic has also transformed the small city of Anand in the northern region of India into the world’s surrogacy capital. In her clinic she maintains high western standards and supervises hundreds of local women who carry the embryos of global clients. Surrogacy is considered a social taboo in India, and thus, the woman stay at the clinic for the full term of their pregnancy, often without the knowledge of their families. Dr. Patel believes that her clinic not only offers salvation to her reproductive-challenged customers but also provides hundreds of rural Indian women the opportunity to transform their economic situation.
Doron Mamet is an Israeli entrepreneur who left a prestigious high-tech position to become what he calls a "baby producer". By establishing his company Tammuz, Doron created a business opportunity in a thriving market that aspires for western-like genetics at lower "Eastern" costs. His agency provides baby producing services by connecting clients, donors, surrogates and clinics world wide
Dr. Gad Lavy is the U.S. operator of Doron's "East-West" surrogacy initiative. He is in charge of creating embryos from sperm and eggs he receives at his independent New England Fertility Center, currently one of the most active and successful fertility clinics in the U.S. The selected embryos are shipped by air to India to be implanted in the local surrogates’ wombs.
Lyne Macklin-Fife is the program administrator for Egg Donation Inc., the first online human egg brokerage website. Based in California, their online database contains more than one thousand egg donors from across the United States whose complete profiles (including photographs) are available on the internet to potential egg recipients and physicians.
Katherine Gaylean is a much sought after egg donor and a leading provider for Egg Donation Inc. Katherine’s eggs have been harvested three times before and each time the customer received over twenty healthy eggs. She lives in southern Tennessee with her husband and two daughters. She decided to donate her eggs both to help people fulfill their dreams of parenthood, as well as a means of financing her own dream house.
Directed & Produced by Zippi Brand Frank | Cinematography by Uri Ackerman | Edited by Tal Rabiner | Music by Karni Postel | Sound Design by Itzik Cohen, Gadi Raz | Additional Directing Shai Gal | Co-Producer Zvi Frank | Cameramen Ronen Mayu, Ronen Schecner | Soundmen Idan Shemesh, Ravid Dvir | On Line Editor Yoav Raz | Post Production Edit Studios | Sound Editing Jungle Sound | For yes Supervising Producer Ronny Perry | Channel Manager Guy Lavie | Executive producer Yona Wiesenthal | Produced with the support of yes docu D.B.S satellite and Rabinovitch fund, Cinema project | Sales Worldwide Films transit International
"…A thrilling and provocative production that examines the limits of what is permitted and forbidden in the involvement of the documentary maker"
"...Brand knows what to focus the camera on… She tells a documentary story in a manner that almost touches cinematic fiction…"
"…When you watch the series you find yourself laughing, crying, sometimes annoyed, but mostly excited. And after that, you sit and contemplate about your life, about your reason to wake up in the morning…"
Documentary series, 2005
8 Episodes (Episode duration: 45/52 minutes)
The series is about exceptionally motivated people who have found, or are in pursuit of, that one thing that will make them happy. The series introduces eight stories depicting alternative reasons to wake up in the morning. These are the stories of people who have found a meaning in modern day life.
1. The man who wants to become a millionaire
A man in his thirties dreaming of becoming a millionaire with an obsession for marketing books and audio tapes as well as "how to become…" books, that sell the American dream of instant money-making.
2. The Bloggers
People who are online 24 hours a day who webcast their entire lives, exposing themselves and their most intimate life scenes. These people are addicted to the exposure and to the reactions they receive: an exhibitionist married couple webcasting their sex acts; a divorcee who webcasts her life around the clock, while maintaining virtual relationships with men she has never met; a web-camera documenting the life of low-income tenants residing in a housing project in Southern Israel.
3. Super Jews
The current wave of young Manhattan Jews who are busy defining themselves, specifically through trading Jewish trends that can be regarded as anti-Semitic, such as strip shows that include Jewish icons, rap songs rebelling against the Holocaust and more.
4. The Temple
A group of religious zealots devoted to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s holy Temple. The duties have already been divided among them: there is a king, a slaughterer, a Jewish judicial body, an architect and actual plans for the construction of the temple.
5. Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion)
A community of Israel loving Christians in Illinois, who claim that they are willing to die for the sake of Israel. They would like to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and they donate blood twice a year to the Israeli blood bank. These people also use Israeli products to support the Israeli economy.
Men and women in their forties who have become passionate triathlon competitors. They are not professional athletes, but are illogically addicted to aerobics and body building.
A group of Israelis living in Las Vegas, making millions from participating in poker tournaments. They are regarded as heavy gamblers and are highly popular among the casinos, as they can easily make and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each night.
8. The Patent
A wealthy hedonist with a successful career as a commercial director, who one day decides to quit his job and to close his successful production company in order to devote his life to saving the world through a modern interpretation of the biblical tithe. Within five years he spends nearly his entire savings - 1.5 million dollars.
Directed & Produced Zippi Brand Frank | Created by Zippi Brand Frank and Arik Lahav Leibovitz | Producers Tami Grayinik, Yifat Sela | Cinematographer Shalom Rufeisen | Editor Arik Lahav Leibovitz | Assistant Editor Keren Ben-Rafael | Sound design Gil Toren | Produced with the support of yes D.B.S Satellite
"...You are going to watch every single chapter of this new series without daring to miss one of them.."Some one to love" is a juicy series that’s going to be hard to give up…"
"Brand's ability to tell a story is simply astonishing…...she presents the viewers with a charming winter present..."
Documentary series, 2002
8 Episodes (Episode duration: 35 minutes)
Successful single Israelis in their thirties searching for mature love, against the backdrop of the Second Palestinian uprising, the "Intifada".
Through the stories of seven men and women, the documentary reveals a culture conflicted in its values: on the one hand, the Western and modern Israeli society with its liberal views on gender, sex, and sexuality, while on the other hand, a culture that places tremendous emphasis on family values, marriage and children.
The subjects examine the society's role in forming the individual's deepest desires. As they share their personal stories, the documentary reveals a larger story about Israel and the psyche of a nation both formed and scarred by war, and by a struggle for self-determination and survival. All seven carry the legacy of Israel’s struggles and its resulting oddities and neuroses into the most private aspects of their lives.
The intimate scenes, which expose the emotional conflict of these strong, independent and successful individuals searching for relationships and occasional sex, are created by the use of personal video camcorders, as the subjects filmed themselves as the dramas unfolded.
Created & Directed by Zippi Brand Frank | Produced by | Editors Tal Rabiner, Tali Goldenberg, Arik Lahav- Leibovitch | Cinematographers Kobi Zaig, Dror More | Sound Moshe Dor | Sound design Sagi Gal | Assistant editor Shlomit Tamir | Produced with the support of yes D.B.S Satellite
"...Without being explicitly critical, "Yerukot" is a sobering testimonial, one that will force the Army to face the realities of women soldiers.…it is the best documentary series ever created in Israel"
" ...Zippi Brand shows real talent in the superb documentary series "Yerukot"
"The best docu-drama that was made in Israel"
"A convincing, wonderful, moving human document that should not be missed"
Documentary series, 2001
6 Episodes (episode duration: 30 minutes)
An unusually intimate glimpse inside the Israeli Defense Forces, and the conflicted role of women in the military. The documentary transpires in a crowded platoon of over fifty young women. It follows six young women from varied social, ethnic, and political backgrounds through basic training. The women undergo a parallel journey of self-discovery through their experiences in the military, as well as with each other. Without their families or friends, and facing the intense rigor and stress of the army, the women rely on one another, and the documentary brings their social and, in some instances, sexual relationships to light. Furthermore the women confront the challenges of military discipline and the loss of individuality, as well as contending with a world driven by "macho" values. As the documentary traces the experiences of each of its young subjects, it conveys a revealing, surprising, and moving story about contemporary Israeli culture.
As director, one of my first decisions was to place the camera in as remote a location as possible to achieve a "fly on the wall" effect, using zoom lenses and wireless microphones. The story unfolds almost exclusively through real time occurrences, with no studio interviews or narration.
The only exception to this effect is in fact the extreme opposite effect. While no "artificial" interventions like interviewers or narrators are introduced, there are certain moments when the camera becomes an intimate sounding board, drawing the subjects to divulge things that otherwise might not be said.
The spontaneous evolution of the series and the intrinsic emergence of key characters required constant and instantaneous decision-making. Because each situation was so different from the next, and there could be no advance planning, I was constantly challenged to make on-the-spot decisions of what to shoot and how.
She is in the army now was selected for broadcast in several European countries, is being studied in a number of academic programs in filmmaking and is also being used for educational purposes in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Lior a bartender in a seedy, red-light district sort of pub, who for ideological reasons refuses to wear leather boots or shoot guns.
Sivan a rebellious and hard-headed who desperately wishes not to be in the army.
Oz introverted and recently orphaned, who keeps her orphan-hood secret from the platoon.
Ravit openly gay who wishes to have a military career, as a way of living almost entirely among women, albeit in a male-dominated environment.
Lena left her parents behind in Russia to move to Israel and join the army. Lena has to undergo official conversion since her mother is not Jewish.
Tal self-describes as a "man in a woman’s body". Tal ultimately chooses to change genders while in the military, and, in fact, flourishes there.
Created and directed by Zippi Brand Frank | Assistant director Keren Ben-Rafael | Editors Tal Rabiner and Halil Efrat | Cinematographer Ofer Inov | Sound Naphtali (Tully) Chen | Produced with the support of yes D.B.S Satellite
Emmy award winner Zippi Brand Frank has directed and produced documentary films over the last 12 years. Her work includes a number of documentary TV series, as well as her latest creation, the Emmy award winning documentary film "Google Baby". The film tells the story of the up and coming baby production industry in the age of globalization.
Brand Frank produced her first documentary work in 2001 with the six part series "She is in the army now". The film is an unusually intimate glimpse inside the Israeli Defense Forces, and at the conflicted role of women in the military. In 2003 she directed and produced an eight part series titled "Somebody to love", which followed single 30-something women and men looking for mature love during a particularly turbulent period in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Two years later she filmed the eight chapter series "Wake up call", which explored the drive of exceptionally motivated people. The series included episodes ranging from a working class man’s passionate quest to become a millionaire, to the obsessions of a group of religious zealots determined to rebuild Jerusalem’s holy temple.
Prior to her Documentary career, Brand Frank spent 9 years as a political reporter, investigative journalist, editorialist, and anchor news producer for Channel 10 and Channel 2 on Israeli TV. Brand Frank was awarded the prestigious Neiman Fellowship at Harvard University for her work as a documentary filmmaker and a journalist (2006).
She has completed a year at the Sorbonne University in Paris and has a B.A. in Law and Journalism from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
She is married and has 4 children.