October 11 marks observance of the second International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
Filmmaker Rebecca Barry highlights many of these unique challenges in her recently launched fabulous documentary, I Am A Girl, (with support from Intrepid) which features the lives of six girls on the brink of womanhood. We caught up with Rebecca recently, to ask her more about the film…
Intrepid: Congratulations Rebecca on the incredibly positive response thus far to this inspirational documentary. What was the seed for you to choose to make this film?
Rebecca: The idea came about from a rather innocuous situation. Several years ago, while waiting in a doctor’s surgery, I picked up a magazine that had an article in it about the Plan “Because I am a Girl” campaign, and it moved me to tears. To have the evidence laid out in front of me, that gender inequality is widespread in our world, moved me to action. It took me a few years and a personally life threatening experience with a tsunami, to get going! But that was how the seed was planted!
Intrepid: In your search for suitable girls to feature, what criteria did you use to select the girls?
Rebecca: Choosing the girls was essentially about gut instinct. It was really important to me that the girls were keen to tell their story and feel empowered and that they understood what being in the documentary meant. I wanted to show that girls have immeasurable potential. Obviously there needed to be a connection and comfort with the camera. They also had to have a distinct challenge happening in their lives that engaged the audience.
Intrepid: The six girls are in far-flung locations across the globe from a diverse selection of cultures. What techniques did you use to gain their acceptance and trust, particularly when the girls are sharing very personal and sensitive aspects of their lives, before and during the filming?
Rebecca: Informed consent is a really important part of my process. I’m not one of those filmmakers that swing in and swing out of the subject’s life, and you never hear from me again. The point of the film IS gender equality and so it was important that the girls felt empowered by telling their story. Building trust and acceptance is part of the job. I shared a lot with the girls about my own personal struggles and also gave them power to, at any point if they felt uncomfortable or embarrassed, that to tell me and we would stop filming. It very rarely happened but I think they felt empowered that if they wanted they could make that call. I also wanted the interviews to be testimony, that the girls are revealing what they want to say, and that is why I used a direct eye line to camera. It creates a very powerful connection with the audience. I also don’t do interviews until about 3/4 of the way through filming. By that time we know each other quite well so we have had time to build a relationship.
Intrepid: The making of this film must have been an incredible journey for you. What are some of the things you learnt along the way?
Rebecca: It has been such an incredible journey! The most beautiful thing I have learnt whilst making the film is how important it is to include men in the conversation as we move towards equality between the sexes. There are some amazing moments in the film where we can clearly see the influence of strong male role models in girl’s lives. The film was also made through philanthropy and a lot of that support came from strong male leadership.
Intrepid: You went to some pretty extraordinary locations to make this film. Where would you return, given the opportunity, and why?
Rebecca: I absolutely loved Afghanistan. I had a bit of anxiety going there, given the current situation, and Kabul was a little scary. But once we got out into the provinces it was extraordinarily beautiful. The landscapes are incredible. I remember standing up the top of a mountain range and looking out at this vista and being amazed that I was looking at one of the most beautiful sites in the world, and yet we were in the middle of a war zone.
Intrepid: The soundtrack is very beautiful. How was the music composed to be reflective of the cultures featured?
Rebecca: I’m very lucky in that the composer John Gray is also my partner, so he had been living and breathing the film with me from the start. We decided that I would bring back an instrument from each country I visited and John incorporated these into the score. The music is so beautiful because he loved the film and “got it” …another good man making a stand for gender equality.
Intrepid: What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
Rebecca: I hope that the film adds to the conversation and the zeitgeist of gender equality. I hope the film sparks conversations, is taught in classrooms, inspires people to do something or think differently.
Intrepid: Anything else in particular you’d like to tell us about it?
Rebecca: Go to the website and join the tribe. Tell your friends, host a screening, ask yourself “What can I do?”… then do it!
Melbourne readers – to mark International Day of the Girl Child, there is a very special screening of I Am A Girl at Cinema Nova, 6.45pm Friday 11 Oct with a post-screening Q & A with Rebecca Barry. Book now!
You can join the I Am A Girl conversation:
And you can join in with Intrepid’s Project SAMA, supporting global gender equality.