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Featured DVD Review: Girl Rising

March 3rd, 2014

Girl Rising - Buy from Amazon

Girl Rising is a documentary that opened last March. Its opening weekend per theater average was only mixed, but it stuck around in theaters long enough to top $1 million. That's a great run for a documentary. Is it also one of the better documentaries I've seen during the past year?

The Movie

Girl Rising is divided into nine sections, one for each girl, each one from a different country. Each girl was teamed up with a writer from her home country to tell her story, and most of the girls starred in the filming of these stories. (As one narrator said, they felt their lives would be in danger if they filmed their own stories.)

The stories begin with...

  1. Sokha from Cambodia
    We see Sokha doing a traditional dance while we are told how she is an orphan and was a child of the dump. Many girls live in garbage dumps collecting scraps of metal and plastic to sell so they will have just a little to eat each day.
  2. Wadley from Haiti
    The next story is about Wadley who has to deal with the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, in which her school was destroyed. Even when the school was reopened, her mother didn't have enough money to send her to school.
  3. Suma from Nepal
    When Suma was six, she was bonded in Kamlari, essentially slavery. It is also illegal in Nepal. We hear of Suma's struggles to become free and help others in her situation.
  4. Yasmin from Egypt
    One of the more difficult stories we hear about. A 12-year old girl is brought into the police by her mother to tell what happened to her.
  5. Azmera from Ethiopia
    Amzera lives in Ethiopia with her mother and her brother. After her father and her older sister die, the village elders said her mother should marry her off, so she could have a good life. In Ethiopia, even though the age of consent for marriage is 18, girls as young as seven are sometimes forced into marriages.
  6. Ruksana from India
    Ruksana lives in the big city and goes to school, but she's a daydreamer and is always caught doodling in class. Fortunately, her father, while upset she isn't studying, encourages her creativity. Unfortunately, India is not a safe place for women, especially the poor.
  7. Senna from Peru
    Senna lives in La Rinconada, which is 17,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest town in the world. Her father, like most men in the town, was a gold-miner. Mining is a dangerous occupation and he was seriously injured in an accident when she was just five and his health never recovered. Her family still worked to send her to school so she wouldn't be stuck as a miner or worse, a prostitute.
  8. Mariama from Sierra Leone
    Mariama is the first person in her family to go to school. Not only that, she has a job on the radio and she's still a teenager. She hopes to use her love of science and her experience on the radio to get her own TV show, among other big dreams.
  9. Amina from Afghanistan
    Afghanistan was recently ranked the worst country in the world for women's rights. Amina desperately wants an education and wants to learn how to read, but in Afghanistan doing so could get her killed.
At times, this film walks a very fine line between between depressing and inspirational and more than a few times I wanted to punch someone because of what I was told. Also at times, it feels like an extended infomercial for a charity, like the kind you see on TV. On the other hand, those are the only two complaints I have about the movie. Girl Rising is fantastic. The nine stories we hear are all engaging and they are told through a variety of ways so that the movie never feels repetitive. There are some with extensive animated sequences, for instance, which certainly helps keeps things fresh. (On a side note, the animation studio for Yasmin / Egypt segment was Titmouse Inc., who also have done the last two season of Venture Bros. That's a huge change in tone for them.) There is a lot of famous people who lend their voices to the film, but it never feels like stunt cast. In fact, I didn't recognize most of the voices while I was watching the first time.

The Extras

Extras include a two-minute introduction from the director, Richard Robbins, who describes how he stumbled onto the subject while doing research for another project. Up next is a 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. There is also a short look at Why Girls' Education matters and what you can do to help.

The Verdict

Girl Rising is not always an easy movie to watch, but it is certainly worth checking out. It is so effective, I donated to the cause. The extras on the DVD are better than most documentaries have, so it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Girl Rising, Liam Neeson, Richard Robbins