“Period. End of Sentence.” (2018)

Click to watch Period End of Sentence on Netflix.

Period. End of Sentence. is the 2019 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Short.
Photo courtesy Netflix.

When a girl gets her period in the United States, she may miss a class.When a girl gets her period in a developing country, she may never go to school again. A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.The Pad Project, the major force behind the documentary.

Ninety percent of women in India do not have access to menstrual pads. They use whatever cloths, leaves, or ash they can find. They do not have access to consistent electricity, nor clean well-lit bathrooms that are safe for women. For this reason, middle school age girls have no safe place to change their cloths. Therefore, they drop out of school. Their situation is overwhelming and dire. Due to the short 25-minute length of the documentary, Period. End of Sentence. (known as PEoS from now on) focuses on a group of Indian women empowering themselves and their community through better access to menstrual hygiene products.

Set in Kathikhera, about 37 miles outside of India’s capital of New Delhi, PEoS sets up from the beginning the taboo around menstruation. Men have no idea what it is. “An illness only girls get?” Girls and women are pained and embarrassed to talk about it. “Only God knows why” women have periods, one woman says. “It has something to do with babies,” another mom says. Sneba, one of the documentary’s subjects says, “We are told women’s prayers are not heard during menstruation, no matter how hard they may pray. They say we are dirty.”

Click to watch the trailer for PEoS.

According to Access Bollywood:

“Feminine hygiene has been a popular film subject in India for several years, starting with Menstrual Man, the 2013 documentary about Arunchalam Muruganatham, inventor of a low-cost machine for making sanitary pads. Muruganatham then inspired two fictional Hindi films: 2017’s Phullu and 2018’s Pad Man, starring Akshay Kumar. Kumar’s 2017 movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha also addressed the related need for clean, safe bathroom facilities for women in rural India.”

Muruganatham’s low-cost machine comes to Kathikhera. It’s purpose is four-fold: to bring menstrual pads to the girls and women; to teach women a skill, which is learning to manufacture menstrual pads; to allow them to earn money; and to offer women economic empowerment. All of these give women something I take for granted, freedom of movement.

Access Bollywood also said this documentary is a good introduction to the menstruation situation in India. I agree. I was flabbergasted and shocked by what I saw. I felt like a privileged rich woman watching PEoS, and I am not (yet). I am so glad this documentary won an Oscar. It’s the reason why I know about PeoS in the first place.

I decided to donate to The Pad Project because its doing important work across the globe, and in the United States. The women of Kathikhera kick ass. I wish them safety, self-empowerment, and economic freedom.

Click to watch the clip from the 91st annual Academy Awards.
Producer Melissa Berton and director Rayka Zehtabchi  accept their Oscar.
Guneet Monga served as Executive Producer (The Lunchbox, Masaan).

Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels on the subject matter. Eight out of Ten Mocha Angels for the soaring, feel good ending that doesn’t match reality. Everyone should see it.

Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story (PBS)

“I would have to find out, what was the word that the religion of Jesus says to the man with his back against the wall?” – Howard Thurman

The one-hour documentary Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story details the life of the man who became the spiritual backbone of the American Civil Rights Movement.

I watched it because I honestly hadn’t heard of him until a few weeks ago. My parents did a most excellent job of teaching me black history when I was growing up. This giant of a man, we missed. (Or maybe, I missed!)

Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was born in West Palm Beach, Florida. As a child, he connected with God through quiet times in nature. A tree, he said, was his best friend. He also developed his Christian faith through his family, especially his grandmother, who had been a slave.

Thurman graduated from high school at a time when there were only three high schools for African-Americans in the state of Florida. He went on to graduate from Morehouse College (he was classmates with Martin Luther King Sr.), and was ordained a Baptist minister while he was still in theological school. Although Baptist, Thurman’s approach to Christianity was not limited to one denomination.

In 1944, Thurman co-founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. One of the first interracial churches in the country, this was incredibly radical at the time. Even more radical, worship wasn’t only sermon and song. It also included contemporary dance and meditation outdoors.

His non-traditional approach to Christianity was further cultivated by his studies with Quaker mystic and philosopher, Rufus Jones, as well as the time he spent with Mahatma Ghandi in India. Thurman saw the caste system and British minority rule over millions of people up close. The similar struggle of Indians and African-Americans only strengthened Thurman’s belief that non-violent resistance was the right approach to end their collective disenfranchisement.

Thurman was Dean of Chapel at both Howard University and Boston University. He was highly influential over civic and spiritual leaders in the mid-20th century. He wrote twenty books, the most well-known being Jesus and the Disinherited (1949.) In the book, Thurman interprets the teachings of Jesus through the experience of poor and oppressed people and offers nonviolent responses to the oppression. Jesus and the Disinherited was the book Martin Luther King Jr. was reading during the Montgomery Bus boycott. “What does Jesus have to say to the man whose back is against the wall?” That book became the “bible” of the Civil Rights Movement.

This documentary is fascinating. It left me wanting to learn more about Howard Thurman. Him being called a “mystic” is most interesting.
He practiced what is now called a “contemplative spirituality.” Thurman simply believed in a direct experience or connection to God. An intermediary, like a minister, isn’t necessary. People can feel, talk to, love, experience, or worship God in a variety of ways. Thurman was not interested in saving souls. He focused on people moving through life as fully realized human beings.

Thurman’s reach was long and wide. We all benefited from his life and teachings. Watch the one-hour documentary here on MPT.tv. Also, Journey Films, the company behind the documentary, has more information on screenings and events.

Backs Against the Wall gets ten out of ten Mocha Angels.

Oprah quotes Howard Thurman at 24:31.

Up Next: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (Netflix)