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April 09, 2013, 12:00 AM | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
From the moment Richard Robbins learned about the global crisis in education for girls, his life was irrevocably altered.
"I was researching a project on a related subject when I stumbled onto some new studies about the power of educating girls. It blew my mind."
As he researched the subject further, he learned just how many girls were denied education across the globe. He found a new mission: telling their stories, both about their lives without education and what they had the capacity to become, if only they would be allowed.
"Those girls are just like our girls," he points out. "Like girls everywhere. Smart, powerful, and eager to make the world better."
He set out to gather their stories, so that the whole world could understand this. In the process, he and his crew met with thousands of different girls and heard their stories. Of course, he could only fit a few into his film. Choosing which ones would make the final cut was an adventure in itself.
Even before he chose which girls would be focused in on, he chose the writers who would work with them. Then, he allowed those writers to review the girls who had auditioned and choose the one that they felt the strongest sense of connection with. "That emotional connection was really the most important thing," he explains. "Once the girls were chosen, then the writers and the girls spent some time together, and the stories emerged from that."
The result is a collaboration between each girl and her writer, relating a somewhat scripted, but still very truthful, version of her life. "What you have," he elaborates, "is real girls playing themselves in slightly fictionalized accounts of stories from their own lives."
A number of A-list actresses contributed their talents to the project, rendering the girls' words into English for the audience. "Hearing Meryl Streep bring Maaza Mengiste's words to life was one of the absolute high points on this whole project for me," he gushes.
The result is "Girl Rising," a riveting documentary that reveals both the obstacles that girls face in securing an education, and the amazing minds on the other side of those barriers. His hope is that audience awareness will help break the barriers down.
"If we can convince our audience that educating girls works, that girls matter, and that the situation out there in the developing world is one we really can affect -- that's a huge step."
The stakes may be the future of humanity itself.
"These girls need help," he says. "They are the most powerless inhabitants on the planet. They have the least money, the least protection, the least opportunity. And amazingly they have the most profound impact on changes we all want -- less poverty, less injustice, less violence."
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