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“Period. End of Sentence.”: The menstruation movie that won an Oscar

“Period. End of Sentence.” won Best Documentary in Short Subject at the 2019 Academy Awards. The documentary examines cultural omission and the basic obstacles that millions of women still face in accessing disposable sanitary products.

What a time to be a creative and a woman! The movement for equal access to a basic need for half the world’s population is slowly gaining traction. Despite the fact that menstruation should be a commonplace subject, it is still a taboo. When it is discussed, this is viewed as being either progressive or shocking. Hollywood, like many other artistic institutions that should imitate, demystify or exaggerate real life, remains “puritanically squeamish when it comes to menstruation,” according to the news website Stuff.

“A female character is approximately 1 875 times more likely to be eaten alive by a zombie than to be seen coping with cramps or Shouting out a menstrual blood stain. (Seriously, why is this never used in ads for laundry detergent or stain remover? It’s certainly a more common problem than grass stains. Who gets grass stains anymore?)” the online publication added.

Period. End of Sentence. is a documentary that attempts to encourage conversations about menstruation and to end the stigma related to it in developing countries. The film won in the category Best Documentary Short at the 2019 Academy Awards and the acceptance speech by the filmmakers Melissa Berton and Rayka Zehtabchi certainly lived up to the moment.

“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything,” Zehtabchi began, before stating, “I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar!”

The film, created with Oakwood High School students who founded a nonprofit organisation called The Pad Project, centres on the rural village of Hapur, outside Delhi, India.

The women in the village, like many around the world, did not have access to pads, resulting in absenteeism in schools and high dropout rates. A machine that makes sanitary pads, fundraised for by Oakwood High School, is gifted to the small village and empowers the women in an unprecedented way. It allowed the local women to make pads for their own use and to sell, thus liberating them physically, economically and emotionally.

Read: New “drop of blood” emoji could break period shame and stigma

According to People, the women felt so inspired that they named their brand “Fly”, because they want women “to soar”.

“When we started this project, we really had no idea how far it would go,” Avery Siegel, the film’s executive producer and former Oakwood High School student, told People.

The executive producer of this ground-breaking documentary was Guneet Monga, with her production company Sikhya Entertainment. The film was directed by award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi, who made multiple trips to India to capture the journey of the women of Hapur.

In her acceptance speech, Monga said, “Periods are normal and in no way do they stop us from achieving anything. Every girl in India, or anywhere around the world, needs to know this and hear this loud and clear. Period is the end of a sentence, but not of a girl’s education. Now that we have an Oscar, let’s go change the world.”

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