Netflix’s Indian short film on menstruation bags Academy Award

'Period. End of Sentence' wins in documentary short category

Cinema

February 25, 2019

/ By / Kolkata

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‘Period. End of Sentence’ team accepting the academy awards (Image Credit: AFP)

Period. End of Sentence – a film set in rural India based on the theme of menstruation, has won the Oscar in the documentary short subject category at the 91st Academy Awards that took place in Los Angeles.

Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi who is an award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker and produced by an Indian producer Guneet Monga under her banner Sikhya Entertainment, the short documentary has beaten entries like Black Sheep, End Game, Lifeboat and A Night At The Garden in the same category. Guneet Monga has produced acclaimed films like Masaan, Lunchbox etc. in the recent past. She tweeted after the win, “We won! To every girl on earth, know that you are a goddess.”

The documentary is a Netflix production and is already streaming on the site since mid-February and has done a couple of its rounds in some of the festivals. The story follows a group of women and girls in the Hapur village of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, who work together to operate a machine installed in their village to make sanitary pads and combat the crushing stigma of menstruation.

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Official poster of the film (Image Credit: Netflix)

The film came to life at the Oakwood School in North Hollywood, California. It is the brainchild of high school English teacher Melissa Berton, and several of her former high school students, including six who serve as executive producers. They came up with the idea when they realised that many of the girls in their partner school in India would leave school and stop their education once they began to menstruate because they did not have access to sanitary pads.

Seeking to raise awareness of this issue, the students made the documentary and formed the nonprofit, The Pad Project (www.thepadproject.org), with the idea that a period should end a sentence, not an education. A two-pronged effort, The Pad Project works both to supply sanitary pad machines to women and girls in the poverty-ridden villages around the world and shatter the stigma surrounding menstruation everywhere. The film also features the original Pad Man Arunachalam Murgunantham, based on whose life a hit Bollywood film was made featuring Akshay Kumar in the lead.

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Still from the film (Image Credit: Netflix)

Following a trip to the United Nations, where the high school students served as delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women, they started fundraising through bake sales, yoga-thons, and two successful kick-starter campaigns in order to finance the machine and its supplies. Over the course of five years, after having graduated high school and gone off to college, the students were able to hire director Rayka Zehtabchi, a 2016 USC (University of Southern California) film school graduate and a young woman only a few years older than them, and make the film. Berton and a group of her students accompanied Zehtabchi to India to shoot it, with post-production being completed in Los Angeles. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar,” reacted director Zehtabchi in her acceptance speech.

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