On Sunday, Rayka Zehtabchi became the first Iranian-American woman to win an Oscar for her documentary short film Period. End of Sentence. and she was humbled by the honor.
“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar,” said the 25-year-old director in her acceptance speech.
The 25-minute documentary addresses the cultural stigma of menstruation in a rural Indian village, where most women do not have access to sanitary pads or menstrual products. Girls who began menstruating tend to drop out of school — out of shame or stigma.
To film this project, Zehtabchi flew to India twice in 2017, just one year after she graduated from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
"It was remarkable and inspiring for me to think that this was all started by a group of 15- and 16-year-old girls with their high school teacher," Zehtabchi told AFI.com about her inspiration to make this film about the teenage activists. "They were raising money to send a sanitary pad machine to a village in India and they felt the best way to maximize the impact of the project was to make a documentary about the whole process. I kept asking myself, 'Why have I never heard of this issue?'"
The director felt that the work of the girls and the disadvantages of other women around the world needed to be highlighted. "I was never hindered by my period because I always had pads and tampons at my disposal, growing up in California. However, so many women around the world don’t have access to those basic household items. That broke my heart."
Adding, "Being a woman is enough of a reason to be inspired and want to take action."