Girl Rising Continues Journey of Women Transforming Society through Film

“Great change can happen in a single generation” – Desmond Tutu

I had been aware of and interested in seeing the film Girl Rising since a trailer was first released a year ago. The film directed by Richard Robbins tells the stories of nine girls from nine developing nations that fight to overcome adversity and get an education as path to transforming the cultures of these countries.

The topic of educating girls and the transformative effect that it has on our society and economy is both timely and substantial. The relationship of documentary film to this movement is also significant. The development of film technology and subsequently documentary films as a medium to provide a factual record on a variety of human and ecological realities over the past century has been consistently influenced by women even if they did not receive the deserved credit.

One example of this is the 1929 Russian documentary The Man with a Movie Camera which is credited to Dziga Vertov, however it was Elizaveta Svilova his wife who handled the editing that arguably made the film significant. Sometime in the late 1950’s Frances Hubbard Flaherty the wife of documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty who directed Nanook of the North noted in an interview with Robert Gardner that documentary film was about bringing imagery to viewers to build bonds across distance.

Today women are producing and sharing documentary film and getting proper credit. Films like Girl Rising which I saw Friday evening at the University of Tampa are continuing to build bonds of empathy across long distances bringing societies together to create positive change. Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, director of Connected is using film and the Internet to explore how our instant and constant sharing of information over social networks around the world is strengthening our bonds, building empathy, and showing undeniably how interconnected we are as a civilization.

While the current inequality of women brought to light of Girl Rising is tragic it is inspiring to have such a powerful medium available to share these stories and others. Video and the Internet is enhancing our society through visual and oral communication which continues to improve the balance between masculine and feminine values in society.

“If you try to stop me, I will just try harder. If you stop me, there will be other girls who rise up and take my place. I am change.” – Girl Rising

With the development of visual media and improved communication methods over the past 100 years women have won the right to vote, begun to work equally alongside of men, made significant contributions to the civil rights movement, and become increasingly more educated. These and other significant positive shifts in society worldwide will only continue in the coming decades, and with increasing frequency.

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