“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar.” This is what director of Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi, said at the Dolby Theatre when her film was declared the Academy Award winner in the Documentary Short Subject category. Period. End of Sentence is an India-set film on the taboos around menstruation and featuring the real 'Pad Man' Arunachalam Muruganathan.
The film is about women in India fighting against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation and delving upon the work of Muruganathan, who had created a machine that could produce inexpensive feminine hygiene products, which would give women in rural villages access to cheap, reliable menstrual pads instead of relying on pieces of cloth.
With Indian producer Guneet Monga at the helm and directed by award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker Zehtabchi, the film is created by The Pad Project, an organisation established by an inspired group of students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles and their teacher, Melissa Berton. The 26-minute film follows girls and women in Hapur in northern India and their experience with the installation of a pad machine in their village.
Zehtabchi, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California's film school, was approached and told The Philadelphia Inquirer as reported by CNBC that she "was totally moved and wanted to jump in." Zehtabchi and her crew, working essentially for free, she says, traveled to India twice to document the pad machine's arrival and then, again, six months later. In that short span, the women went from not knowing what a pad was to using regularly them and, some were even earning wages running the machine.
"A period should end a sentence—not a girl's education!" declares one of the makers behind Period. End of Sentence.