'Girl Rising' Review: Film Gathers Momentum From Social Media


The new documentary film Girl Rising premiered on March 7 in New York City, proclaiming “One girl with courage is a revolution.” The film’s opening — on the eve of International Women’s Day — points to new trends in millennial advocacy and activism. Young leaders are making their voices heard through digital tools, and starting a courageous revolution to support girls globally.

Girl Rising is the work of media collective 10X10, an online campaign sponsored by The Documentary Group, Intel Corporation and now CNN. (Due to the film's success, CNN has purchased it to screen in June.) The campaign aims to empower girls and raise awareness about the importance of providing them with an education. “Girl Rising is about the formative impact that education can have on a girl’s life,” said director Richard E. Robbins.

Recently, the problem of female education has heralded much media attention. The lack of resources for girls’ education throughout the world has become one of the key issues globally. It is estimated that 66 million girls lack access to basic primary education. The root causes behind poor female education has garnered some powerful new millennial advocates. Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old advocate for girl’s education, has been nominated to receive a 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for her activism in Pakistan. When the Taliban took over her hometown in the Swat Valley region, Malala became an advocate for change by publicly denouncing the actions of the Taliban against girls in her blog. She wrote about life under the Taliban, and boldly sent the message that every single girl needs to be educated. In October 2012, her refusal to be silenced resulted in an attempted assassination attempt by the Taliban.

Although not always threatened by a militant organization, many other girls throughout the world lack education due to poverty, abuse, neglect, sex trafficking, and slavery, among many other global issues. Girl Rising is a truly international project drawing on the strength of many powerful women. Prominent female writers from nine countries (including Haiti, India, Peru, and Cambodia), the nine young girls portrayed in the film, and the nine powerful actresses (including Chloë Moret, Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Salma Hayek) who narrate their stories. The marriage between documentary film and the literary and performing arts culminates beautifully in a film sure to draw a large audience.

At the premiere yesterday, media icons such as Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett showed their support for the film. Two particularly new features of this documentary are the way in which it was marketed and the access the audience has to it. Currently the 10x10/Girl Rising page has over 200,000 likes. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other forms of social media were essential in raising awareness about the mission and release of the film. The activist buzz around the film spread like wildfire after the One Billion Rising campaign in February. No million-dollar marketing campaign was needed in this case.

Another innovative new feature of this film is its use of a system called "Gathr." With Gathr, anyone can request a screening for a film or invite their friends to reserve tickets, and once enough tickets have been reserved, have their request processed and their film screened. Because Gathr is a free screening service that only works once many people reserve tickets, it eliminates the production company’s screening costs and multiplies the activist power of a film such as Girl Rising. Girl Rising can easily be brought to a theater near you using the dynamic power of your own social media network.

With young women like Malala Yousafzai leading the charge for girls' education worldwide — and young activists, actresses and artists like those involved in 10X10 supporting their efforts with digital technologies — millennials may soon lead a revolution to ensure that all girls can go to school.