MANILA, Philippines — A blinding array of colors greets viewers of “Girl Rising,” a documentary by Richard Robbins, now making rounds all over the world in a bid to enlighten people on the right of girls to education.
From the greenest of gardens to bright yellow sarongs, Girl Rising beckons the audience with its intelligent use of color that intensifies, rather than masks, the heavy but hopeful content of the film.
Girl Rising presents the real-life stories of nine young girls from different parts of the developing world – their struggles brought about by culture, poverty and conflict, and their empowerment through education.
Praised for its stunning cinematography, which shows gritty scenes of poverty juxtaposed with lush landscapes or visions of children at play, the film aims to move people into donating
or volunteering for the campaign to make education accessible to girls worldwide.
Intel Philippines, in partnership with development organization Plan International and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), launched Girl Rising in the Philippines last October 3 at Greenbelt 3, Makati City.
Intel Philippines Country Manager Calum Chisolm said their company hopes to promote the vital message of the film and share “the inspiring transformation that happens to girls and their communities when they are empowered through education.”
In a statement, ADB Senior Advisor for Gender Shireen Lateef said that while developing countries in Asia and the Pacific recorded a dramatic rise in enrollment rates, “daunting challenges remain, as the gender gap, especially in secondary education, is still very large.”
Meanwhile, Plan International-Philippines shared key findings of their report on the situation of Filipino girls such as poverty as a disabling environment, young girls being employed as household helpers, child soldiers in conflict areas, among others.
The organizers said they hope that through Girl Rising, both the public and the country’s policymakers become enlightened to the plight of girls who are not able to go to school.
During the preview, guests from the media were given the opportunity to watch the stories of Wadley from Haiti and Suma from Nepal.
Wadley’s story, written by Edwidge Danticat and narrated by Cate Blanchett, was a poetic take on Wadley’s strong and hopeful character amid the life-changing devastation caused by a catastrophic earthquake. Left impoverished by the calamity, Wadley’s mother could no longer enroll her in school. In the end, her irrepressible spirit paved the way for her to earn an education.
Meanwhile, Suma invites the viewer into the dark reality of bonded labor in Nepal. At age 6, she became a slave girl, forced to carry out back-breaking chores everyday of her life. It was her night school teacher, a social worker, who worked hard to convince Suma’s master to set her free. Her story, written by Manjushree Thapa and voiced by Kerry Washington, is highlighted by the sorrowful lyrics of her songs.
Accomplished female authors, from the same country, were chosen to write the girls’ stories on paper, resulting in carefully crafted and poetic narrations, brought to life by the voices of renowned actresses.
In addition to Blanchett and Washington, other actors who lent their voices to Girl Rising were Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Selena Gomez, Alicia Keys, Freida Pinto, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Priyanka Chopra, as well as Liam Neeson who served as the overall narrator.
It’s hard to put a finger on what kind of film Girl Rising really is. It is not your usual documentary. To one critic, it seemed like an extended public service announcement (PSA). But one thing’s for sure: its stunning cinematography matched with intelligent, almost poetic, monologues begged the audience to listen to the stories and to act and do something to help Wadley, Suma and other girls like them.
While the film has yet to be commercially available, groups and individuals are encouraged to email [email protected] with their screening requests.