"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide" made its broadcast premiere as a part of PBS's Independent Lens series and was introduced by George Clooney. Although gender inequality is certainly not a new topic, New York Times reporters (and Pulitzer Prize winners) Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDann explored the globe while writing the acclaimed 2009 bestseller on which this four hour presentation is based. They covered stories both harrowing and heartfelt. Encountering seemingly hopeless situations, they met courageous individuals who worked within the system (or oftentimes against it) to help affect positive change. They attracted enormous media attention upon the book's publication, so the expectations for this documentary series were high. Kristof is a major face in this production and he has enlisted some famous names to participate in the various segments of the film.
Here's a run down of the chapters:
1) Eva Mendes in Sierra Leone (Gender Based Violence): Mendes and Kristof report on a situation where most attacks against women go unreported. They meet up with a representative (Amie Kandeh) of the International Rescue Committee whose efforts to educate and protect women are tireless.
2) Meg Ryan in Cambodia (Sex Trafficking): In this episode, Ryan and Kristof meet a leader in the anti-trafficking struggle (Somaly Mam). In a country where about a third of the prostitutes are children, Mam personalizes the story as she herself was sold into the sex trade as a child. Her efforts to rehabilitate brothel girls packs a strong emotional punch.
3) Gabrielle Union in Vietnam (Education): Union and Kristof visit the country with John Wood. As a marketing executive with Microsoft, Wood has introduced Room to Read which is an organization that promotes both literacy and equal opportunity education for girls within developing nations. As girls can be seen as second class citizens in places like Vietnam, they sometimes are pulled from school and not given the same opportunities as boys.
4) Diane Lane in Somaliland (Maternal Mortality): The unpleasant fact in Somaliland is that one in twelve women die in childbirth. A combination of poor nutrition, female genital mutilation, and general neglect have made the act of giving life an unprecedented danger. They meet Edna Adan who has started the country's first maternal health facility.
5) America Ferrera in India (Forced Prostitution): In India, there are about 3 million prostitutes with 1.2 million of them being children. Girls often follow their mothers into the trade with no other outlet. Here we meet Urmi Basu who works in the infamous red light district to try to break down these patterns and conventions.
6) Olivia Wilde in Kenya (Education): Wilde visits the Shining Hope for Communities organization and the Kibera School for Girls. Here we see a tuition free education established for promoting the advancement and opportunity of local girls who never had access to such things before.
DVD Extras: The two disc set has about 90 minutes of Bonus Material including deleted scenes, extended scenes and interviews, Public Service Announcements, Trailers, Mini-campaign videos, Action Suggestions, and additional content.
"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide" personalizes a lot of unpleasant situations! But it also showcases a fortitude and determination of those that struggle to make an impact. Hopeful and inspirational, it's hard not to connect with the stories and champions introduced here. Watch it and you will be convinced that one person CAN make a difference. KGHarris, 11/12.