Film Review: Girl Rising

How has education changed your life? What would you do for an education? How does educating girls now change the future? These questions and more are answered in the moving documentary Girl Rising.

Back in April, I attended a screening for the film Girl Rising at a local theater. I had heard about this documentary via a friend’s page on Facebook and immediately knew I wanted needed to see it. Because this film has not been released on a large scale to the public, I had to join a potential screening on Gathr and hope that enough people signed up for it to “tip” that screening so that it would show. Obviously, it tipped.

Girl Rising poster
Girl Rising poster–screencap from

The night of the showing, I was running late, and by the time I got into the theater, it was packed. I found a seat near the front on the right, prepared myself for a sore neck, and settled in to my seat. There was an excited buzz of conversation leading up to the lights dimming, and I could not help but feel excited as well. All I knew was that this documentary was about girls and education, and that was enough.

As the movie started, I was first of all impressed by the craftsmanship of the film. This is a beautiful documentary with gorgeous visuals, pleasantly voiced narration, fitting music, and occasional animation. What the filmmakers did was find nine girls from around the world who sought an education – Sokha (Cambodia), Ruksana (India), Suma (Nepal), Yasmin (Egypt), Wadley (Haiti), Amina (Afghanistan), Senna (Peru), Azmera (Ethiopia), and Mariama (Sierra Leone). These girls were then paired with nine women writers from their own countries to help tell their stories – Loung Ung, Sooni Taraporevala, Manjushree Thapa, Mona Eltahawy, Edwidge Danticat, Zarghuna Kargar, Marie Arana, Maaza Mengiste, and Aminatta Forna.

Once the girls’ stories were written, they filmed their stories and used famous English-speaking actors to read their stories in voice overs and other narration. Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Priyanka Chopra, Chloe Moretz, Freida Pinto, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys, and Kerry Washington all contributed to this narration. Between the girls’ vignettes, segments of film showing girls in different school uniforms helped illustrate facts about education for girls that included various statistics about cultural norms, economics, and crime. (These portions were mostly narrated by Liam Neeson.)

This is the structure of the film, and it effectively draws us into these girls’ lives, some of whom have come from desperate situations, and some of whom still yearn for more liberation. From child brides to house slaves to single orphans, these girls represent the harsh realities that women face all around the world on a daily basis. It is a hard film to watch even if you are aware of these realities, but it is also hopeful and challenges its viewers not to watch idly.

Have you had a chance to see this documentary? If so, what do you think?

Ways to see this documentary:

  • Gathr – either join a screening group or initiate a new one at your local movie theater
  • Campus screening – either host a screening at your campus or find a school near you that will show it
  • Corporate Screening – similar to campus screenings
  • CNNGirl Rising will debut on CNN this month on June 16 and June 22

By Dormouse

Bilingual (and a half) white girl who spent thirteen of her formative years in Africa. She is a writer, mentor, coffee drinker, wife, cat owner, language lover, photography dabbler, aspiring speaker, and a lifetime student. She keeps her writing going over at

9 replies on “Film Review: Girl Rising”

The good thing about Gathr is that they won’t charge you unless the showing you sign up for “tips.” So if you really do want to see it, you won’t be out any money unless the showing gets approved. And…you can always hop on social media to raise awareness in your area! Grab some friends? I hope you get a chance to see it!

Yes. I saw this earlier this year too. It was so, so good. I’ve been trying to pick up books by the authors who wrote the girls’ stories, but many of them A) aren’t published authors or B) haven’t been translated into English.

Beautiful and heartbreaking.

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