San Diego native makes film to publicize feminine issue in India, receives Oscar-nomination
When a girl gets her first period in the United States, she may miss school for a day. When a girl gets her first period in certain developing countries, she may never see school again.
Melissa Berton, a San Diego native and grade school teacher, was introduced to this tragic reality during a during a school-sanctioned trip to the United Nations' annual Commission on the Status of Women in 2013. Here, with Girls Learn International club students who acted as real-life delegates in the commission, chaperone Berton learned of the inhumane practice of pulling teenage girls out of schools in rural areas during the onset of puberty due to a lack of access to proper hygiene products and medical care.
This is also where Berton learned of the work a man named Muruganantham was developing to solve the problem. Through machines that dispensed affordable biodegradable pads from locally sourced materials, Muruganantham's invention both supplied the village's girls with needed pads, but also an industry to work in.
"The fact that there was this machine that could do this, we immediately determined that the best way to raise awareness about this issue was to make a film," said Berton in an interview with AwardsDaily. That film would end up becoming Period. End of Sentence.
"We kept going and going. It was three years of research on the machine. [Eventually] we decided we’d start a Kickstarter to raise the funds to make the documentary and that’s around the time that [director] Rayka Zehtabchi became involved."
After raising money from the Kickstarter, which received an outpouring of support from various Hollywood figures, Berton was able to complete the documentary, as well as raise $50,000 to bring Muruganantham's machine to a rural village in India. With Period. completed and the machine secured, Berton thought all that was left was to raise more awareness about the issue. What she didn't expect was, however, was an Oscar-nomination.
"We never thought it would be an Oscar-nominated film, but the idea was always, if we could just make an educational film to raise awareness about this issue then that would be the jewel of the nonprofit."
The Academy Awards will be airing on Sunday, February 24th at 5pm PST. Period. End of Sentence. is available for streaming on Netflix.