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Half the Sky (2012)

8.3
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HALF THE SKY is a passionate call-to-arms, urging us not only to bear witness to the plight of the world's women, but to help to transform their oppression into opportunity. Our future is in the hands of women everywhere.

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HALF THE SKY is a passionate call-to-arms, urging us not only to bear witness to the plight of the world's women, but to help to transform their oppression into opportunity. Our future is in the hands of women everywhere.

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1 October 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide  »

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Flawed perhaps, but immensely powerful
11 November 2013 | by (US) – See all my reviews

This four hour, two part PBS documentary on abuses of women in six different countries is taken from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's highly regarded book. And even if arguably flawed on a film-making level, this is powerful, sometimes gut wrenching stuff. You know a documentary has a real effect when immediately after watching you feel compelled to send money to two charities you've never heard of before.

It does a great job of never downplaying the horrors of the subjects it tackles; sex trafficking of under-aged girls, denial of education, genital mutilation, etc., while managing to always leave room for hope. In each case, we see a brave, almost saintly woman or organization fighting the odds and personal danger to change things. So instead of feeling depressed you feel agitated and energized. "These situations are awful, but no situation is beyond hope and change" is the constant theme.

The elements that bothered me certainly didn't undercut the power of the film's message, but did make watching it less emotional than it might have been. The device of having female celebrities be our surrogate guide into each of these situations seemed odd and smacked of pandering. I found myself frustrated listening to the feelings of the actresses about what they were seeing, and would gladly have traded that time for more interviews with experts in the fields, or the actual victims and those who are working for change. The idea we needed to see this through movie and TV stars eyes (as intelligent and well-intentioned as these women are) seems to really underestimate the intelligence of the audience.

I also found the sameness of style made the pieces start to lose some power as they went along. Or perhaps it was the choice of the ordering of the 6 stories. But after crying at the first three stories, I found myself less moved by the last three. Perhaps it was simple emotional overload.

Last, I had mixed feelings that all the stories where from 3rd world countries (with the exception of India). It is true that the most gross and glaring abuses of women are taking place in these poor, developing nations, but it would have been very powerful to see how even in 1st world counties women are facing the same battles (do we really think there's no sex-slavery or forced under-aged prostitution in the US? That girl babies aren't aborted in China?). By telling only stories of far off worlds so mired in poverty, a chance was lost to make the point that miss-treatment and abuse of women transcends national boundaries, class, or how 'advanced' the nations are.

But those complaints noted, this is strong and important stuff. It should be seen by all means, and get ready to have your heart hurt, and maybe even to take action.


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