Men are an essential part of the conversation about gender inequality. They are often our greatest oppressors but also often our greatest champions.
The film I am a Girl was released in 2013 – but its director, Rebecca Barry, has realised she had been preparing to create this work since she was a 12-year-old girl, awakening to the reality of subtle sexism in the world around her. Despite growing up in a first-world community of privilege and support, she began to understand that women had different expectations of the world than men did. Her decision to study gender politics at university threw the door of feminism right open.
The genesis for I am a Girl began in a doctor’s waiting room as Rebecca flipped through the pages of a fashion magazine, chancing upon a photo essay about the status of women across the world. This argued that women, no matter where they come from, are destined for a life of disadvantage. Convinced by the statistics, Rebecca began researching the topic and conceived the idea for a documentary that would ‘put a human face’ to the facts. She had come to the conclusion that ‘there is a group of people in the world today that is persecuted more than any other group on the planet … it’s not a political group, it’s actually girls.’
Rebecca began work on the film after surviving a tsunami in Samoa in 2009, realising that life is short and she needed to engage. She chose the stories of six girls from different countries, showing a coming of age in very diverse cultural ways: Kimsey from Cambodia, Aziza from Afghanistan, Breani from the USA, Katie from Australia, Habiba from Cameroon, and Manu from Papua New Guinea. ‘We picked each country based on a particular issue that girls have,’ said Rebecca. ‘So in Afghanistan it’s education; in Cameroon we’re looking at early marriage; and in Papua New Guinea it’s maternal health, principally childbirth; in Australia it’s depression … and all the girls who participated had come through their childhood but were becoming women in a way that their culture dictated.
Confronting, disturbing and moving, I Am a Girl tackles major global issues around violence against women and girls – human trafficking, poverty, early marriage, depression, and lack of access to education – at the same time keeping the film on a personal level. ‘It was important that this was their (the girls’) story, their testimony.
Rebecca now has a clear direction – she wants to continue to make stories that have social impact and prompt people to think of making change. At present she is involved in helping create curriculum for girls, using political theatre to give them a voice
In 2012, Rebecca and a colleague, Madeleine Hetherton, founded Media Stockade, an independent production company based in Sydney. Their manifesto is that they have their eyes and ears open to stories from around the world. They aim to make films that are provocative, socially relevant and impactful – without being didactic. They both have extensive film and TV experience and are working on a raft of new projects. Their work aims to be witty and entertaining, to move and inspire people to debate and to take action
In addition to working on their own projects, they offer support, advice and strategy to independent filmmakers to enable them to develop their ideas. They are very keen to help people tell their own stories in their own medium
As producers, Rebecca and Madeleine’s next documentary film, Call me Dad (directed by Sophie Wiesner), looks at domestic violence through the lens of a men’s behavioural change program. Rebecca sees this as a hugely significant issue in Australia and wants to help confront the behavioural and cultural issues that give rise to this situation. She is passionate about the need for more effective engagement with men in the issue of violence against women.