Here come the girls: A new documentary follows nine girls around the world in their quest to get schooling

It’s been a surprise hit in the US, and not just because it has A-list narrators...

You might not have heard of Yasmin, Amina, Senna, Suma, Azmera, Sokha, Wadley, Ruksana and Mariama, but it’s likely that you’re aware of the women who narrate their stories: Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Chloë Grace Moretz, Freida Pinto, oh, and someone called Meryl Streep. The first set of names belongs to the stars of Girl Rising, a documentary that tells the stories of nine girls in nine different countries. What unites them is their desire to get an education, and the difficulties they face in doing so.

Why should you care whether Sokha, from Cambodia, goes to school or not? Because, as the film explains with more graphics and animations than you could point a piece of chalk at, educating girls improves health standards, reduces child trafficking, increases a country’s GDP, breaks the cycle of poverty – as well as giving individuals a shot at a better life. Girl Rising is also moving, beautifully shot, and sprinkled with some serious finance, and fame-filled fairy dust.

Created by social action campaign 10x10, the film has sponsors with serious clout: Intel, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions and CNN Films. Its director is Academy Award nominee Richard E Robbins, and whoever came up with its distribution method deserves an Oscar. In the US, communities have been able to use an online service called Gathr to organise on-demand screenings (they just have to guarantee a minimum of 100 tickets sold). It’s been so successful that as well as opening in 100 cinemas across the US and getting a week-long showing in Regal Entertainment Group cinemas, it made its debut on the New York Times “most popular movies list”.

It’s not just about the US, though. Thursday night saw the first screening of the film in the UK at Bafta’s headquarters and, as Shelly Esque, president of the Intel Foundation, points out, it’s gaining geographical ground: “In Uganda, the First Lady screened it and formed a task force immediately to focus on girls’ education. We’ve screened it in Peru, Costa Rica, Malaysia, we’re going to take it to Burma, we’ll be in Paris in two weeks. It will be shown on CNN, which has a huge reach. We’re just at the beginning.”

So far, so good news story. But there have been voices that haven’t sung the praises of Girl Rising quite so fulsomely. Bitch Media, which publishes the feminist Bitch magazine, posted a thoughtful piece on its website describing the film as “a problematic implementation of good intentions”. Its author, Natalie X Baker, called it “well-meaning but it feels exploitative” and wrote that while the stories told were powerful, “their impact is constantly being interrupted by the statistics sprinkled throughout and the fact that the voices telling their life stories are not their own”. Esque replies: “When you hear Meryl Streep’s voice illustrating Azmera’s story, you’re really drawn into the story of this young woman. Her voice just adds another dimension. It’s not about Meryl Streep.”

Plan International is one of the NGOs that will benefit from 10x10’s Girls Education fund (for which all profits from the film will be used). The Sierra Leone story in Girl Rising was also filmed at a Plan project. Tanya Barron, chief executive of Plan UK,  comments: “These problems do not always receive the public attention they truly deserve, which is what makes this film so special. Celebrity involvement is hugely helpful in reaching the public with such important issues, however it is the girls’ stories that will leave a lasting impression.” Here’s looking at you, Yasmin, Amina, Senna, Suma, Azmera, Sokha, Wadley, Ruksana and Mariama.

girlrising.com

News
University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
newsFrom a former custard factory to a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
media
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Nurse

£6 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Newcastle: Level 3 Nursery Nurse - Newcas...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz