There is a group of people in the world today who are more persecuted than anyone else, but they are not political or religious activists. They are girls. Being born a girl means you are more likely to be subjected to violence, disease, poverty and disadvantage than any other group on the planet. As each girl moves closer to coming of age, I AM A GIRL, a feature length documentary, reveals what it means to grow up female in the 21st century.
Intrepid’s Co-Founder, Darrell Wade and his wife Anna, along with other funders including The Intrepid Foundation and Plan have chosen to help bring this documentary to the big screen. We asked Darrell, why?:
Q: I Am A Girl features the lives of six girls on the brink of womanhood. What was it about this film that drew you to want to support it?
A: For many years my wife Anna and I have talked about the issue of gender equality. When I was growing up this was known as “women’s lib” and it was a semi-radical movement to raise awareness and make change. Whilst woman are indeed more liberated than they used to be – at least in the western world – there are nonetheless many equality issues that are still faced by girls and women today. Often these are less obvious and more insidious than they used to be, but real all the same.
In developing countries the situation is far, far worse of course, with girls and women often being denied basic human rights. For instance I Am A Girl tells the amazing story of a teenage girl in Afghanistan who is denied an education – purely because she is a girl. Her response and attitude is both extraordinary and uplifting.
To answer your question though, what appealed to me about this film was the idea of looking at a series of girls and hearing their stories about their very different backgrounds, cultures and countries. We can see both the differences and similarities in their lives as they pass through adolescence.
Q: Is this some kind of personal crusade for you, or was there a business reason for you and Intrepid to get behind bringing this film to the big screen?
A: Well, I’m quite sure we aren’t going to make any money out of this film – and I don’t think we’ll be getting a whole heap of new travellers for Intrepid from it either – so in that sense I guess it’s personal! Having said that, there is definitely an alignment between this film and Intrepid. As a business we have always wanted to connect our travellers to local communities and try to get them to understand what makes different cultures tick. This film does that in spades.
Also, most of our staff and travellers are female, so sponsoring a film that is about woman in different walks of life in different countries also makes sense. Finally Intrepid created a gender equality project called SAMA a couple of years ago – and this film is very much aligned to the purposes of Project SAMA in trying to raise awareness of the issues of girls and equality.
Q: The girls featured in the film are from a diverse selection of cultures and societies around the globe, facing various challenges. Aside from all being girls, are there other commonalities?
A: Initially the most striking thing about the film is of course the differences in the girls lives. It’s a very long way between life in the projects of New York to a remote village in Afghanistan, the suburbs of Sydney and a coastal community in Papua New Guinea. And whilst these differences play out throughout the film as the girls tell their stories, for me it was actually the unifying commonalities that came to the fore in the end. All are making their way from being a girl into womanhood and are facing issues as a result of that – some really quite shocking, some that we can more easily relate to. All are finding their feet and exerting themselves and in this sense – despite the despair at times – I felt the film quite uplifting in the sense of the strong human spirit.
Q: What are you hoping that audiences will take away from the film?
A: Firstly I just hope people enjoy the film, like I did, and come away very glad that they came to see it! Beyond that though I’d hope that it helped people understand the incredible diversity of our world, and have a greater understanding of some of the very real issues that girls face as they pass through adolescence. The different problems, opportunities and obligations that entails. The internal issues they face, and the external ones imposed on them. Ultimately, I’d like to think the film will help foster a belief in the universality of the human spirit. We all share one world, and everyone should have a vested self-interest in everyone in it!
Q: Why bother giving money to make a documentary, versus giving money to aid or development projects?
A: It’s about change. If we want to make the world a better place, then we need to change it. That can be done directly in all sorts of ways such as supporting development projects like we do at The Intrepid Foundation. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years and so obviously I’m a big believer in it. But another way to affect change is to influence opinions by taking an advocacy role. A well-made documentary will stimulate your thinking, engage people, create debate and raise awareness. In time, as attitudes change this can be just as powerful as direct action – arguably even more.
Q: Can a film change the way we think?
A: On its own a film can only do so much – but a good film will stimulate debate and raise awareness. It may in turn inspire more research, books and articles. Sometimes you see an eco-system of change develop. I remember a few years back I read The Weather Makers, by Tim Flannery, and only a few months later Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth was released – along with numerous significant research papers. Almost overnight the climate change issue hit mainstream conversation as a result of this ecosystem of media. As a result Intrepid embarked on a journey to become carbon neutral – something we achieved 4 years later after the whole company became aware of the issue and the role we could play. So films can be a part of a powerful change agenda!
Q: How will you measure your return on investment?
A: As a reasonably successful business person who is used to making investment decisions all the time, I’m afraid I have no answer on this one! Maybe a good film is like good art – you just know it when you see it! I’m hoping lots of people see it, enjoy it and think a little about the issues of gender.
Q: Who should go and see this film?
A: Pretty much everyone – especially men and people of influence, as all too often they are the ones that need to lead the change process.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us about it?
A: Three years ago I read the book Half the Sky, by New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Ultimately this book was the stimulation for me to get more actively involved in the issue of gender equality, and for Intrepid to start Project SAMA. It’s an extraordinarily powerful book, albeit a very distressing one at times. So go see I Am A Girl and if you’re stimulated by it – or even if you can’t see it – I urge you to read this book.
View the I AM A GIRL trailer.
After sell-out preview sessions, I AM A GIRL will now be screening around Australia in Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania’s Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival. Click here for more info on the documentary and details of where you can see this remarkable film in September and October, 2014.