A Year in Shorts Day 116: "Period. End of Sentence."
One of the great things about documentaries is how versatile they are. Not only in terms of form and subject, but in terms of what the filmmakers are hoping they do. Some just seek to inform; others want to entertain. And still some documentaries exist in order to effect social change. 2018’s Period. End of Sentence is one such film. And I’m happy to say that the film definitely succeeded in their mission, at least in my neck of the woods. After that, winning an Oscar almost seems secondary!
Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and released in 2018, Period. End of Sentence. is a "social issue" documentary, with the issue in this case being menstruation and the taboos that often surround it in India. The film specifically focuses on a group of women in Hapur, India, who learn how to make cheap and safe sanitary pads with the help of a machine invented by Arunachalam Muruganantham. On first glance it might sound like a strange subject for a film, but the film manages to be consistently engaging and informative, covering how this machine not only supports women's health, but also allows them to be empowered while supporting their local economy. That's a lot of ground to cover in under half an hour, and at times it feels as if the film might have been better served as a feature. But I suppose there's nothing wrong with a film that leaves you wanting more, is there?
As for this film's personal connection with me, it's slight, but significant! To allow you to peak behind the curtain a bit, I tried to get The Great Oscar Baiter off the ground with a friend of mine back in 2019, but as a podcast, not a blog. Part of the idea for our pilot episode was to cover not only the most recent Best Picture winner (in this case, Green Book), but the winners in all the Shorts categories as well- Bao (Animated), Skin (Live Action) and- of course- Period. End of Sentence. in Documentary.
Well for a variety of reasons that didn't quite work out and it'd be over a year before The Great Oscar Baiter officially launched as the blog you all know and love. In hindsight, recording the pilot on the opening weekend of Avengers: Endgame when I had already seen the film and my cohost hadn't might have been a mistake; making a running gag out of that fact certainly was! Still, I don't regret the experience (well, mostly- I regret having to purchase Skin just so I could watch it), as Period. End of Sentence. allowed me to help my brother graduate college.
As my brother neared the end of his senior year he needed an idea for his capstone project and couldn't think of what to do. Having just seen Period. End of Sentence., I told him he should look into The Pad Project and see if he could do something with that. And I can't imagine he's the only one who has done something similar! We've covered a lot of Oscar-winning films in our Year in Shorts so far, but how many of them can say they're making a difference in the world, no matter how small?
Period. End of Sentence. is a very good film, managing to pack a great deal of information into a relatively short period of time. While it may not be the most entertaining or artistically daring of documentaries, it effectively raises awareness about an issue a lot of people probably hadn't even thought about, and that alone is worth commending. And as Rayka Zehtabchi pointed out when she accepted her Oscar- How wild is it that a film about periods won an Academy Award?
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