Showbiz & Celebrity / Why ‘Period. End Of Sentence.’ Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now

Why ‘Period. End Of Sentence.’ Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now

Showbiz & Celebrity Mar 08, 2019

An Oscar-winning short doc takes us inside India’s fight for “menstrual equality.” We delve deeper on why Period. End of Sentence. is the most important movie that you need to see now. 

“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!”

The words were a clear highlight of this past Academy Awards — spoken by 25-year-old Iranian-American director Rayka Zehtabchi as she arrived on stage to collect her trophy for Best Documentary Short.

The acceptance speech that followed included an impassioned plea for “menstrual equality.” The phrase may have seemed odd to a North American audience, but in India, where it’s been reported that only 18 per cent of women use sanitary pads, it’s a crucial, uphill battle with implications that stretch far beyond public health — it’s a fight for dignity, education, employment and independence.

 

Why 'Period. End Of Sentence.' Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now
Why Period. End Of Sentence. Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now: Director Rayka Zehtabchi backstage after her historic Oscar win. Photo Credit: Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S.

 

Zehtabchi’s 26-minute doc Period. End of Sentence., currently streaming on Netflix, makes that case powerfully and poignantly.

Opening in Hapur District, a rural area 60 km outside New Delhi, we’re shown that part of the problem is a lack of access to affordable, effective pads, and part of it is a deeply ingrained taboo — such things simply aren’t spoken of.

The filmmakers survey women, girls and a few men on the subject. Some of the younger ones can’t say the word “period” without breaking down into giggles — if they can will themselves to say it at all. Some have never heard of pads, others just know they can’t afford them. And one young man posits that menstruation is “an illness [that] mostly affects ladies.”

The consequences of such stigma and the ignorance it breeds are immense — most potently illustrated in this film by a woman who recounts her painful decision to drop out of school, fed up with finding a way to change out of bloodied clothes and avoid the humiliating gaze of gawking men. If you don’t have a pad, you don’t have options.

That said, Period. End of Sentence. is not a harrowing film. It’s a hopeful one.

 

Why 'Period. End Of Sentence.' Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now
Why Period. End Of Sentence. Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now: Girls in a rural Indian village giggle when asked to talk with filmmakers about periods and pads. Photo Credit: Sam Davis

 

The heart of Zehtabchi’s doc is a group of crusading Indian women who are starting up their own low-cost pad operation — with a little help from the Pad Man himself, Arunachalam Muruganantham and, remarkably enough, a team of California high school girls and their English teacher who crowdfunded the money to buy one of Muruganantham’s revolutionary pad-making machines for this village halfway around the world, as well as the funds to make the film itself. (The kids and teacher aren’t seen in the movie, but they are listed among its producers; “Oscar-winner” should make for a nice addition to those post-grad applications.)

The women who do appear on screen, the ones who run this upstart company, are gumption incarnate, working tirelessly in a modest little hovel to manufacture thousands of pads and then pounding the pavement to sell them door to door, their customers ill-informed and uneasy. Watching them savour small victories and push forward in the face of daily defeat and systemic oppression is nothing short of invigorating. The brand name they chose for their pads is “Fly,” because that’s what they want women to do.

Zehtabchi, now the first Iranian-American woman to ever take home an Academy Award, deftly captures the human angle of this crusade, her lens lingering on bashful smiles of customers, moments of quiet resolve from the pad makers, and an endearing aside or two: “Everyone must think I’m an actress for you to be recording me. I wonder what tomorrow is gonna be like.”

 

Why 'Period. End Of Sentence.' Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now
Why Period. End Of Sentence. Is The Most Important Movie That You Need To See Now: The battle for “menstrual equality” is of vital importance to the future of women in developing countries around the world. Photo Credit: Sam DavisMore than just understanding the scope and gravity of the issue, we come to know, respect and admire the people living it, to see the hopeful human face of a perhaps-not-so-impossible struggle.

 

Indeed, more than just understanding the scope and gravity of the issue, we come to know, respect and admire the people living it, to see the hopeful human face of a perhaps-not-so-impossible struggle.

“When there’s patriarchy, it takes time to talk about something related to women,” one of our heroes observes. “It’s taking time even among us women, but we’ll get there.”

To learn more about the issue, the film and how you can help, visit The Pad Project.

Main Image Photo Credit: Netflix/Sam Davis

Matthew Currie

Matthew Currie

Author

A long-standing entertainment journalist, Currie is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Toronto’s York University. He has spent the past number of years working as a freelancer for ANOKHI and for diverse publications such as Sharp, TV Week, CAA’s Westworld and BC Business. Currie ...

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