Breast milk, blood, and sperm cannot be produced artificially. These substances can only be extracted from human bodies. They are collected, tested, processed, and stored in banks and they ultimately end up in other bodies. Karin Berghammer's documentary NATURAL JUICES looks at what happens in these banks and explores the question of who gets them and at what price.
Leopold, born in 2004 at only 960 grams in the 27th week of pregnancy, would hardly have survived without breast milk. The camera is there when he is given his very first dose. 17 years later, his mother Barbara remembers how her breasts almost burst when the milk came in. Breast milk has been collected in Vienna since 1909. Today, donors receive €2.30 for a liter. Neonatologist and breast milk researcher Dr. Nadja Haiden from MedUni Vienna is campaigning for the continuation of the Europe-wide price control for the valuable substance. The aim is to prevent a situation like in the USA, where the internet trade in the sought-after substance is taking off. Bodybuilders are willing to pay up to 170 dollars for a liter. A hefty sum that tempts mothers with no income of their own to take their milk to market. The price for this questionable safeguarding of the family income is paid by their babies: they are fed cheap formula food instead.
To survive despite her severe immunodeficiency, Karin Modl needs at least 600 people to donate plasma every year. The raw material for her life-saving medication comes from Retz in Lower Austria, among other places. It is no coincidence that the company Europlasma has set up this branch near the border, because the € 25 donation fee attracts mainly Czech donors. Accordingly, in addition to the homepage and the information leaflets, all employees are bilingual. Donating blood, on the other hand, is a matter of honour in the country, even for native Austrians. When the Red Cross sets up its beds, they are quickly filled. Apart from the life-saving blood transfusions, however, it is above all the yellow fraction, the plasma, that is a much sought-after raw material. And it is not only used where life or death is at stake. Aesthetic dermatologist Dr Barbara Franz demonstrates its rejuvenating power in a so-called "vampire face-lift".
For Timo, then 19, an advertisement popped up on Instagram: Become a sperm donor! Curious, he signed a contract with the Erlangen sperm bank. That was two years ago, and the 21-year-old now goes to the "extraction room" once a month. If his sperm meets the defined quality criteria, he receives € 780 for every six donations. During the last conversation with sperm bank manager Dr. Hammel, he found out that he is now a "father" .
Sunny Müller, a young woman who herself came into being through a sperm donation, has registered with a DNA database in search of her father. This is how she found a half-sister in the USA whose mother had been treated by the same gynaecologist. The two now have a suspicion as to who the man whose sperm they owe their existence might have been.
SCRIPT & PRODUCTION MANAGER
BASED ON AN IDEA BY
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR & 2ND CAMERA
Caroline Bobek, aac
Gernot Grassl, aea
SOUND DESIGNG & SOUND MIXING
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT & ASSISTANT EDITOR
Franziska Teresa Aringer
Maurice Chales de Beaulieu
TITLE DESIGN & GRAPHIC ARTIST