U.S. film highlights link between girls' education and poverty

Fri Mar 8, 2013 3:35pm EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new feature film that debuted in U.S. theaters this week explores the link between improving education for girls in poor countries around the globe and the battle against poverty.

"Girl Rising" blends documentary and narrative filmmaking to focus on the impact of education on the lives of nine girls from Cambodia, India, Afghanistan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Peru, Sierra Leone, Nepal and Haiti.

"In the film you have real girls essentially playing themselves in some fictionalized stories from their own lives," Richard E. Robbins, the film's American director, told Reuters in an interview. "These are true stories re-imagined to focus on the essential humanity of the girls."

Each girl's story was written by an author from her own country and is narrated by actresses including Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep and others.

The stories include a young Nepali girl forced to work as a bonded laborer, a child bride wed to a much older man and a Haitian girl made homeless by the 2010 earthquake who is determined to return to school.

"They are all in varying, different circumstances," said Robbins. "Some of them are in school. Some of them are out of school. They are all struggling with the obstacles that tens of millions of girls in the world are struggling with - to get to school, to stay in school, to learn."

The 43-year-old former journalist said until he started to do research into poverty he had no idea about its link to girls' education, or how little that link was understood outside the development community.

"What kept coming back to me in my research about useful ways to end global poverty was girl's education," said Robbins, whose 2007 documentary, "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," was nominated for an Academy Award.   Continued...

Richard E. Robbins, director of "Operation Homecoming: Writing The WarTime Experience"" which is nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, poses at the International Documentary Association's annual celebration of the Academy Awards Documentary nominees in Beverly Hills, California February 20, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser