Although there is no country in the world in which women have rights equal to men, and girls and women still suffer either due to active abuse (trafficking, honor killing) or neglect (little-to-no maternal health care or education for girls), change is coming and progress is being made. Below are some heartening improvements that have been made in women’s lives around the world, along with a list of some organizations working to ensure that girls and women can live healthy, happy, and productive lives.
Camfed “When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income, and have a smaller, healthier family.”
Kiva “We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”
Half the Sky
Beijing Status of Women Report
efforts to change,
the world bank and gender: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTGENDER/0,,menuPK:336874~pagePK:149018~piPK:149093~theSitePK:336868,00.html
Description Half the Sky and other NGOs that are working to invest in women around the world.
Ask Richard how beefed up he wants this? How many examples Kiva? Camfed?
Why are so many violent girls and women running through the movies now, film critic Manohla Darghis asks in a recent New York Times article, when Hollywood seems to have stopped being interested in telling their stories at all? And why does the violence never seem to have much connection to the real world? It’s not like the world doesn’t offer up enough injustice against girls and women; a look at the United Nation report on the status of women would give women plenty to be fighting about.
In many parts of the world, girls are second-class citizens. They may be encouraged or forced to marry young and have many children. Their bodies may be painfully and permanently modified in rituals to discourage sexual behavior. In some countries, they can’t vote, drive, own property, or even open a banking account. They may be denied schooling. (Of the 130 million kids that don’t get to go to school in the world, 90 million are girls.*)
SEXISM: NOT JUST A “THIRD WORLD” PROBLEM
Women in the so-called developed or First World are not immune to the world’s preference for boys over girls: women earn only ¾ of what men do for the same jobs, and they, too, are vulnerable to gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and abuse — simply because they were born female.
The result? Girls and women are the majority of the worlds’ poorest people: 70 percent of the worlds’ 1. 3 billion are living in extreme poverty. Not surprisingly, since schooling is often denied to them, 2/3 of the world’s illiterate are also girls and women. Psychologically, they’re prey to crippling self-esteem issues, and an alarming number of girls in the developed world develop eating disorders as a response to the misogynistic world they live in.
THE ECONOMIC, RELIGIOUS, AND CULTURAL ROOTS OF GENDER DISCRIMINATION
Why is there a preference of boys over girls all over the world? The answer is complex and culturally specific. It can involve an interplay of simple economics, religious beliefs, and ultimately a self-fulfulling prophecy whereby the discrimination of girls leads to their lower status in society, which then becomes seen as proof of their inferiority rather than the inevitable result of their treatment. The irony? This lower status seen as natural inferiority comes to be seen as justification for more mistreatment and discrimination.
In terms of economics, some cultures justify their preference for girls over boys because for them, having a girl means that a family has to pay a dowry, whereas they’d receive the dowry if their son married. Sons are often seen as being able to leave the home, work, and bring back income to their families, whereas girls — particularly when they reach adolescence and can get pregnant — may cost their family dearly.
Religion can also play a part in the reasoning that boys are superior to girls. Some religions codify in their scripture beliefs that girls are unclean and morally inferior to boys, and as a result they have fewer opportunities outside the prescribed roles of caretaker and homemaker.
Although the cultural preference for boys over girls is often seen as a “Third World” problem, a recent Gallup poll indicated that 40 percent of Americans polled said they would prefer a boy and 28 percent would prefer a girl. The rest of the respondents said that they had no preference or opinion. More men than women answered that they would prefer to have boys, while women said they didn’t care either way.
Comments in a New York Times article to why this preference could still remain in the 21st century in the United States didn’t sound too different from the justifications in Third World countries: boys are easier to raise; cheaper to raise; cause less trouble; and because they’ll have more opportunity in the world (due to sexism!), their lives will be easier for their parents. And they can carry the family name (a tradition that itself is rooted in gender discrimination).
Although the term “Girl Power” first emerged from in 1990s pop music scene, it in fact refers to a force as old as time: the power that girls and women everywhere have called upon whenever their worlds treat them as “less equal” than males. (try to deprive them of the power in the face of gender oppression, poverty, and violence.)
Some Girl Power-inspired movies like Cinderella Moon, which tells the story of an orphaned girl who rises above her meager station in life without the help of Prince Charming, seek to explore the roots of these oppressive conditions. When girls are oppressed, the film suggests, it’s a sign that society as a whole is ill. So it follows that when the protagonist gains strength and gets in touch with her girl power, she’s able to help the world around her.
But more often than not in the movies, Hollywood translates girl power into violence. It’s ironic that although Cinderella Moon is based on an ancient Chinese fairytale, its vision of girl power is more rooted in modern reality than are the representations of many Hollywood films, films whose recent love of violent heroines seems to spring more from their directors’ fantasies than from real life. Take the film role that made Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman famous. In The Professional, Portman plays Mathilda, a 12-year-old who is taught by her neighbor how to be an assassin after her parents are killed. Given the real struggles that girls face all over the globe, this plot line is not exactly a story ripped from the headlines.
Cinderella Moon and Half the Sky — the charity director Richard Bowen co-founded with his wife Jenny that helps Chinese orphans— both celebrate something about girl power that is more true-to-life than a vision of girl power as violence. Girl power tends to be constructive rather than destructive. When an underprivileged girl gets a second chance at life — she often pulls everybody up with her. Just look at this statistic: “Young women have a 90 percent probability of investing their earned income back into their families,” one report found, “while the likelihood of men doing the same is only 30 – 40 percent.”
There is hope, after all, for even the poorest and weakest girls and women among us, and with innumerable organizations around the world like Half the Sky’s work in China, girls are being lifted up and given opportunities to live and work to their fullest potential. Girls all over the world, as Half the Sky argues, can have “a second chance at childhood.” Girls around the world are becoming Cinderellas every day.
Let’s take a look at both the challenges girls around the globe face, as well as what’s being done to change their plight.
When Richard Bowen visited China with his family for a much needed vacation, he planned on checking up with “Mei Mei,” Cinderella Moon‘s lovely and talented Cinderella played by actress Xiao Min.
What’s she up to? What’s it like no longer having her every move filmed, being hitched to wires for “flying” scenes, or wearing heavy historical costumes?
You’ll find out soon enough when Richard brings the video back from China…
Shooting Cinderella Moon in Yunnan Province meant using horses to transport camera equipment around winding mountainsides, camping next to remote shooting locations, and generally having to wing it in the beautiful-but-rugged “Shangri-La.”
Our video guy Max is working on a reel to show you some fun behind-the-scenes videos, so stay tuned!
Bang Zoom! Entertainment, an award-winning post-production studio and one of the top dubbing houses for anime films — did the English dub for Cinderella Moon. We’re looking forward to introducing the film to the anime community. Bang Zoom! Is yet another thing that ties Cinderella Moon to the anime aesthetic.
Last year, Conan O’Brien and his sidekick Andy Richter visited Bang Zoom! to do some anime voiceover parodies. Looks like they had a lot of fun…
Although Mary GrandPré is most famous for her illustrations of JK Rowlings’ mega-successful Harry Potter books, for the past two decades, the artist who describes her work as “soft geometry” and who loves working with pastel colors has worked on a variety of other projects: book covers; editorial work; ad work; and a collaboration with Dreamworks for their animated film Antz.
Mary has long been a supporter of the work Half the Sky Foundation does for Chinese orphans, and because Cinderella Moon director Richard Bowen and his wife Jenny Bowen are its founders, Mary recently offered to generously donate her artistry for a Cinderella Moon poster.
We can’t wait to see your gorgeous art work for the film, Mary!
Lisa Fruchtman is an Academy Award-winning film editor who has worked on films such as Apocalypse Now, The Right Stuff, Children of a Lesser God, The Godfather 3, The Doctor, My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Woodsman.
In addition to her Oscar for editing The Right Stuff, Lisa received Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for Best Editing for both Godfather 3 and Apocalypse Now, as well as an Emmy Nomination and a cable ACE award for Truman. Her work for Children of a Lesser God was nominated for Best Picture.
In the following interview, Lisa discusses why she gravitated toward film editing and what she thinks kids could learn from Cinderella Moon. She also talks about her upcoming documentary about women in Rwanda.
Q: You have an amazing resume. How did you get your start?
LF: I started out in documentary film, but I wasn’t headed in that direction originally. I had thought of going to law school, or even going into science. But I apprenticed for the first documentary film collective in the country, and when I arrived in the Bay Area, my first feature film job was as an apprentice on Godfather 2.
Also, I think having a model is important, and at the beginning of my career I saw women editors and realized that could be me. Editing fits my mental style. It combines analytical and creative skills, and really is a writing and rewriting process. You’re not just working with a blank page. At a certain point, I realized, “I’m good at this.”
Q: I think even people who love cinema don’t often think that much about how editing — as much as shooting — is an integral part of what goes into the artistry of film making. Can you talk about it a little?
LF: What I think most people don’t understand is that film doesn’t exist before it’s edited. My favorite analogy is that a film is like a quilt. You can have the colors and patterns, but it doesn’t exist until you put it all together. Editing helps to frame your movie-watching experience. As an editor I ask, do I choose a long-shot or a closeup? What do I focus on? The speaker? The listener? Every decision helps create the film; otherwise, it’s in fragments. Once it’s edited, you might wonder: how could it have been any other way? But really, it could have been any of number of other films. An editor helps create the film’s dramatic arc.
Filmmaking is an alive process. At each stage, it acquires a new layer. If the director and cinematographer only shot things as they were written, or the actors only read their lines with the directions they’re given, it wouldn’t be the same thing.
Q: How did you become involved with Cinderella Moon?
LF: Richard and I met 25 years ago on a film his wife Jenny directed that he shot: Street Music. They knew I had experience shaping films from the story point of view, and asked me to participate.
Q: Are there different considerations that go into editing a film like Apocalypse Now versus a romantic comedy like My Best Friend’s Wedding, or a film in the magic realism style like Cinderella Moon?
LF: Yes and no. As an editor, I’m in a responsive position. My mindset is that I’m responding to the quality of the story, the actors, the intention of the director. Every film is different, but what you’re trying to tease out is the film’s emotional resonance, the director’s original intent.
Q: Cinderella Moon was shot digitally. How did that affect the editing?
Cinderella Moon was filmed in digital on a Red camera, and the finished product is exquisite. Shooting in digital made it malleable from the point of view of special effects. In the old days, you paid a fortune to optical houses, and you couldn’t even do that until the film was finished. Being able to work both with digital and with Max Chan as an assistant (who’s talented as a special effects person, computer guy, and translator), things were much easier. I’d say, “Let’s try this with the sun and moon,” for example, and he’d go to the other room and try it out, come back — and if we could use it, we would. Fantastic compared to the old days!
Q: What was is like editing a film that was shot in Chinese? Do you think there are differences in how Chinese films are edited versus films made by Americans? Is there a national “style” of editing?
I think there is a style of film that’s culturally based. Richard succeeded in making a film that’s in Chinese, that’s visually stunning, about a little girl in a long-ago China, yet he was also able to get performances that are accessible to a Western audience. It was easy for me to read the actors’ performance and to choose their best moments. All of this was due to Richard’s skillful direction. Richard’s also a sophisticated craftsman and has a lot of knowledge about film as well as a respect for its different crafts, including mine.
Q: Not a lot of films are explicitly feminist. Any thoughts about working on a film, as a woman, whose message is that girls are as good as boys?
LF: As a woman and a feminist, I think Cinderella Moon’s message is a great thing to put out in the world. It might be trickier in China than here, but I also think that ultimately the message of Cinderella Moon goes out to all kids: to be all that you can be.
Q: What projects are you working on now?
LF: I’ve gone back to documentary filmmaking. I’m the director, producer, and editor of a documentary with my brother about Rwanda. Specifically, about the women there who are redefining their lives and emerging from the genocide there. They’re the first women drummers in Rwanda and they’re opening an ice cream shop.
Q: What’s the film called?
LF: Sweet Dreams. That’s the name of their ice cream shop, whose sign reads, “Sweet Dreams: Ice Cream, Coffee and Dreams.”