A few days ago I watched Rayka Zehtabchi‘s Period. End if Sentence. — a 26-minute short about women in a small Indian village learning to make and sell sanitary pads to other women in their region. Which is a big deal because for centuries India’s patriarchal culture has enforced a belief that women’s menstrual cycles are shameful and must be kept “out of sight, out of mind.” Especially in the rural regions.
Yes, Virginia — India is a grotesque medieval country in some respects. And local women have paid the price for this ignorance for generations.
Roughly 19 years ago Arunachalam Muruganantham (aka “India’s menstruation man’) invented a low-cost machine that allows locals to manufacture first-rate sanitary pads. Muruganantham’s device is priced at only $950 while imported machines cost over $500,000. Zehtabchi’s doc is about rural women using this invention to take charge of their natural lives.
Essentially Period. End of Sentence. is about a quiet revolution in the minds of women who reside in Indian backwaters. (The village in question is a suburb of Delhi.) High school girls in California (led by exec producer Helen Yenser) raised the initial money for the machine and began a non-profit called “The Pad Project.”
For weeks I’ve been referring to this doc as “Lisa Taback’s Indian film” because she’s one of the producers (her daughter Claire Sliney is an exec producer), and because Lisa and Claire went to India last year to assist in the filming. Many others were involved, but I’ve known Lisa for years as the Queen of Oscar strategists (currently exclusive to Netflix) and so she’s my reference point.
Here’s a current New Yorker piece, titled The Oscar-Nominated Doc About a Pad Machine,” by Dana Goodyear.
Incidentally: Tatyana informs that many Russian women who belong to the Russian Orthodox church culture are urged not to attend church services while they are menstruating. Liberal Orthodox churches allow menstruating women to attend services, but they can’t touch anything or talk with the priest or receive Holy Communion. Astonishing!