Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pass the Popcorn: Girl Rising

We're in the home stretch of high school freshman year — and the work keeps coming. This week, my teenage daughter had two big projects due (for the most demanding teacher on the planet Earth or any other) and tests in three more courses. So what did she do Wednesday night? She went to the movies.

And I'm so proud of her.

Actually, it was my idea. But, when I learned of all the looming deadlines, I suggested we postpone. No, she wanted to see the film and was willing to "burn the midnight oil" to do so. And the best part? It wasn't gorgeous Leonardo DiCaprio in Gatsby. Or the latest (last, I hope) Hangover, or yet another girls-gone-wild gross-me-out comedy with Melissa McCarthy.

It was Girl Rising.

Girl Rising is a fascinating and moving documentary about the power of education to change a girl, her family, her community, and the world. Narrated by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Cate Blanchette, and other major stars, the movie focuses on nine real girls from around the world. Through their stories, we encounter poverty, violence, human trafficking, but also unbelievable courage and determination. 

What this means is that it's pretty powerful stuff. What it also means, unfortunately, is that it has virtually no theatrical distribution. We had to travel an hour to a very funky (and I mean f-u-n-k-y) community cinema for a screening. But it was worth it. 

One of my daughter's (seemingly endless) assignments was a worksheet on a cultural event. After we got home, she chose to write about Girl Rising. Here's what she had to say ...

The entire movie made me think; it was impossible not to be moved by this film. It was beautifully written, and creatively filmed. But, it was more educational than entertaining. These girls were extremely underprivileged and it was very hard to watch them without feeling guilty about all that I have and all of the opportunities I am given; even things we take for granted like school and a home.

If girls in developing countries receive access to education, the number and severity of the problems they face will decrease. The documentary stated a lot of statistics and proved their point over and over. I was thoroughly convinced.

My family sponsors a girl from Indonesia. She's just 8 years old, and her family has a hard time supporting her and her little sister. That is where my family comes in. We pay for her to be able to go to school. Before seeing the documentary I only thought of this as something kind of us to do that will help Indri in the future with getting a job. But really it does a lot more than just that. It also reduces her risk of getting STD’s at a young age. Or marrying too young and dying in childbirth. The main takeaway point of this film is that girls need education in order to reach their true potential. I am so happy that my family sponsors Indri. I am relieved to know all that we are saving her from and it again puts in perspective that I am really truly so lucky.

After watching this film, which focuses on nine girls, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to all of them. I decided to do some research. Seven of the girls have moved on, in some cases becoming teachers themselves. Sadly, the other two are not as fortunate. One is engaged to be married (she's only 13), and the moviemakers can no longer contact another because it would actually put her life at risk! This made me realize that a movie, even one this good, can’t solve everything. 

Following up and reading about the girls’ progress — good and bad — made them real people to me. Yes you can argue that they always were real people. But I only watched their story on a screen. I watch lots of "stories" on screens. Reading about the girls made me proud to know that there are still people out there with a heart and willing to help others who need it. These girls are just like any others, each has something special to offer the world. It is horrifying that the world could take their opportunities away from them just because of their sex. I hope that someday, all girls will have the same equal opportunity and will be able to show the world who they really are, what makes them special and what they can do to leave their own unique mark.

This is not the end; it is merely the beginning. Girls are rising. And they are not showing signs of stopping anytime soon.

BTW, I have been asking my daughter to write a guest post for Lovin' The Alien since I started more than two years ago. I'm proud of what she's written and happy to share it here (even if I did have to co-opt it from her homework).

She and I both encourage you to see Girl Rising. "One girl with courage is a revolution."

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