Half the Sky Documentary Reviewed

Did you watch the Half the Sky documentary on PBS? What did you think?

I wrote up some of my thoughts about the film at Muslimah Media Watch. In a nutshell: the inclusion of celebrities in the documentary was  incredibly disappointing for me. 

We’ve discussed some of the issues surrounding celebrification of causes and the challenges of addressing global issues from differing cross-cultural perspectives in some of our past reads, especially in Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatural Selection. While reading articles for my MMW review of Half the Sky, I came across one by Teju Cole, “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” from earlier this year. Cole is a novelist, and here he responds to some of the feedback he received for his criticism of the 2012 Kony youtube video, and more broadly, about the problematic narratives Westerners construct as they “help” others:

there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local.

That’s what I’ve been mulling over since watching the film on PBS (while I canned tomatoes! B. Kingsolver would be proud). 


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2 Responses to Half the Sky Documentary Reviewed

  1. jaredshenk says:

    I would like to second these opinions! I felt very much the same way while watching the documentary version of “Half the Sky” — the scene in particular with Meg Ryan was almost difficult to watch.

  2. bsbnerds says:

    I really liked Eva Mendes & America Ferrara, and in the case of the former, I can say with great certainty that I’ve never had positive feelings about her before. I see where you two are coming from, though, surely. One thing that I did like was how Nick & Cheryl responded to those who would say, “Who are you Westerners to judge the culture & traditions of these non-Western places?” They said that, when talking about things like sexual slavery, female genital cutting, etc., the urgency & the morality–or immorality, I suppose–of these issues supersedes the barfy Superhero-type response that you have tapped into in your comments above. So for me, while the celebrity bit was off-putting & inappropriate at times, there is still value in making sure that more people know that these atrocities are out there. We should just choose a less barfy conduit through which to share that information. AND–way less cerebrally–I totally loved getting to put faces & personalities with some of the amazing in-country women that we met while reading the book. 🙂

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