I am not just talking about the potential impact on the life of a girl or a boy appearing in the documentary. Of course, that’s really important, but what I mean is, can a documentary change the life of the person who watched it?
Can it change the life of the person who sat in the theater, or at home, who paid full attention to the screen during its time frame, whose mind went deep in thought, curiosity, amazement, sadness, hope, among other emotions?
Can it make that one person change their perspective in a matter of 140 minutes and can it inspire that person to get out there and do something?
Four years have passed since I first watched the documentary Girl Rising and I have no doubt in my mind that a documentary has the power to change the life of not only those who appear in the film but also the life of the audience.
It was March 2013 and I was a 27-year-old working in a girl-serving organization that was also opening my eyes and convincing me that girls who were given opportunities had the key to a brighter future.
During a weekday night, my friend Sarah, who was also the chapter leader of Dining for Women-Atlanta, invited me to see Girl Rising at the Regal Cinema in Atlantic Station, in Atlanta.
I was starting to discover my passion for international films and documentaries and I could not say no to Sarah’s invitation, but I have to admit, I had no idea what Girl Rising was about. I didn’t know who was in it, what its purpose was. Really, I had no idea what I was getting into.
I would have never imagined the impact that film was about to have in my life. I would have never thought I would come to learn some lines by heart, that I would have my favorite stories, nor that I would end up becoming a promoter for it.
I remember that first time I watched it during that weekday in Atlanta. I felt I could relate to Wadley’s story because I had volunteered in Haiti just after the earthquake. I was impressed by her courage to keep going to school even after a teacher had told her to leave. I thought about the privilege that I had had in my life, given the opportunity to go to school and how, given Wadley’s conditions, I wouldn’t have had that nerve and bravery. I loved Ruksana’s colorful story because it represented the huge impact that having a fatherly figure can have in a girls’ life and fortunately for me, I was able to relate to that.
Before the introduction to Senna’s story, I sat wondering if there was going to be a Latin American story. I thought about how far away these stories seemed from my country (Costa Rica), yet each single message felt universal and I knew that girls around me were having the same internal battles.
Overall, I learned more about struggles I hadn’t been able to visualize. I felt surprised and heartbroken with the statistics given in between the narratives. But what impacted me the most was the hope that the documentary gave me.
Girl Rising taught me one and a million lessons on hope. It has inspired me to spread the word about injustices that are happening to girls every single second of every minute of every hour today. But, mostly it has taught me that hope, courage and opportunity can change the life of a girl, which can transform the lives of an entire community.
Girl Rising taught me that the very best way to change the world is through the power of girls. Unfortunately, not all girls are given the opportunity to unleash that power and we have to work, every single day so that every girl can break that cycle of poverty, follow her dreams and prove to the world that she can change the world.
Because of the profound impact Girl Rising had on me on that weeknight of April 2013, I truly believe that a documentary has the potential to change the lives of the audience. I know it changed mine.