What is it?
Period. End of Sentence is a documentary about the stigma surrounding menstruation in Northern India, where the lack of sanitary products and menstrual education mean millions of girls end up missing school – or worse, dropping out entirely – once they start their period. The 26-minute film documents a group of women who use a machine to make low-cost sanitary pads in a modest village in the Hapur district, as an attempt to improve women’s access to feminine hygiene products, in turn empowering women and pushing for a revolution in the area.
The idea for the documentary began after female students at Oakwood High School in Los Angeles wanted to find a way to keep young girls in India in school after they started their periods. In India, 80% of girls are severely restricted by their periods, and adolescent girls miss school an average of five days per month when they are menstruating. Furthermore, at least 500 million women and children worldwide lack the facilities to manage their periods effectively.
The LA students launched a Kickstarter campaign to supply schools in India with pad machines which cost $11,000 ($8,301) each and can produce enough sanitary pads for an entire village. The school then brought Zehtabchi, who had recently graduated from the USC Film School onto the project to produce the documentary, which they hoped would help them raise the money for the machines, and shine a light on menstruation discrimination.
"This whole project started in an English office with the dream of an English teacher and her students and parents who got involved," Zehtabchi told Good Morning America. "They had this vision. We put our hearts and minds together, and then you bring more resources in, and you realize the sky is the limit."
What Oscar did the film win?
The film’s director and its majority female crew made history on Sunday at the 91st annual Academy Awards after Period. End of Sentence won Best Documentary Short – and celebrated with an epic speech: "I'm not crying because I'm on my period or anything," Zehtabchi, 25, quipped. "I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar.”
Is it controversial?
The film itself is not controversial per se, but one male member of the Academy made a lot of people mad after he called the film “icky”. Last week, The Hollywood Reporter leaked that the unnamed man admitted the film was “well done”, but wrote on his anonymous Oscar ballot: “[I'm not going to vote for] Period. End of Sentence — it's well done, but it's about women getting their period, and I don't think any man is voting for this film because it's just icky for men.” He also hinted that other male voters had likely bypassed the film because they were uncomfortable with the subject matter – which just goes to show why films like this are so necessary and important.
What has happened since the documentary was made?
According to Time, since the first machine was set up in the Indian village two years ago, the women involved in the project have now taken their sanitary products to around 40 nearby villages, and another two machines have been set up by the Period team.
While there’s still plenty to be done in order to achieve equality in the area and help keep girls in school, the film shows what women can do when they’re provided with the tools to thrive. As Arunachalam Muruganantham, the creator of the pad machine says, “The strongest creature created by God in the world is not the lion, not the elephant, not the tiger… the girl.”
Period. End of Sentence is available to watch on Netflix now.