Review: Girl Rising

Ms T’s review of the UN documentary and whether it will change things for women in Pakistan.

Nida Ameen January 01, 2014
Ms T’s review of the UN documentary and whether it will change things for women in Pakistan.

Directed by Oscar-nominee Richard E Robbins, the UN documentary — aptly titled Girl Rising bears testament to the depravity girls in developing countries face on a daily basis, such as illiteracy and abuse. It illustrates the plight of nine lives from different countries around the world and their misfortunate yet spirited journey towards academic success.

Enacted primarily by girls themselves, each of the nine stories has been penned by nine renowned writers from each of the countries depicted in the film and voiced by international icons including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez and Frieda Pinto. The message of Girl Rising is both simple and striking: girls should be educated.  However, despite the director’s commendable efforts in filming, one often loses track of the film’s main objective in the assortment of visual effects used.

Focused on how education can improve life for a young girl, the film tackles social issues such as poverty, underage marriage and bonded labour and manages to pull some strings with gut-wrenching real life stories and statistics. Wadley’s determination and Suma’s escape from bonded servitude are perhaps the most gripping and inspirational of the nine. In particular, Suma’s bicycle journey through time as a child slave is enough to melt even the hardest of hearts. One need not look at the subtitles on screen to be moved by the songs Suma sings for solace. Wadley’s determination to go to school against all odds serves to reiterate the cause for which Girl Rising stands.

Unfortunately, the remaining narratives are obscured by the director’s cinematic ambitions and some do not need the extra propaganda. For example, the black and white depiction of the harsh living conditions in Senna’s mining hometown in Peru and the superimposed animations in Yasmin’s rape story only leave the viewer distracted.

While some vignettes transcend the significance of education perfectly, others like Amina’s life in Afghanistan seem out of context. The hardships faced by the girl child in war-ridden regions of the country have already been documented a plenty in the global media and hardly need further hype. Also, the implication that a veil hides and mutes a girl child and only taking it off brings true freedom reflects a rather biased mindset.

Hence, in spite of stunning visuals, impeccable cinematography and heart-warming narration, Girl Rising fails to leave the impact expected by the viewer. For contextual reasons, it could have been cut short. The focus on finding a ray of light in misery, instead of highlighting the victory of education over the obstacles of life, inseminates a rather banal inspiration and renders the film little more than an elongated public service message one can expect on daytime television as opposed to a hard-hitting documentary.

Nevertheless, Girl Rising has its heart in the correct place. With an array of disempowering real-life statistics and stories, the film has good intentions and an important message. The variety of stories succeeds in imparting knowledge about the status of women across the world and including A-list celebrities to the team has only added more legitimacy to it. Without a doubt, Girl Rising proves why the world must come together and work to save women from a life of pain and suffering. If you are a feminist-documentary enthusiast, this one is a must-watch for you!

Score: 3.5/5

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, December 29th, 2013.


RJ | 7 years ago | Reply

Great Review and thankfully unbiased!

The Only Normal Person Here | 7 years ago | Reply

Good review. Pretty balance, didnt get carried away with the hype.

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