The documentary short "Period. End of Sentence.," executive-produced by Charlotte Silverman, a Gender and Sexuality Studies program concentrator, won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary - Short Subject on Feb. 24.
The 26-minute film follows a group of women in Delhi, India, who use a machine that makes affordable, biodegradable sanitary pads. Inability to access or afford sanitary pads often causes girls in developing nations to miss and eventually drop out of school, but as Silverman and her collaborators say, "A period should end a sentence, not a girl's education." The machine provides both safe and affordable menstrual products to girls and women and a steady income to the women in the area who produce the pads, Silverman said. The initiative, which is called "The Pad Project" and has installed two machines in the Hapur District outside of Dehli, was a partnership between Silverman and classmates from her Los Angeles high school's gender equality club and Action India, a women's rights group in India.
Last week, as Silverman was preparing to fly home to Los Angeles to reunite with co-workers from India, meet with the film's distributor, Netflix, and attend the Academy Awards ceremony, she was more preoccupied with ensuring that her Indian colleagues would be comfortable at her home than with the heady atmosphere of the Oscars.
"My job is to keep people accountable to the overall project, and not get caught up in the glitz," Silverman said.
That was less easy for Silverman's colleagues as they stood on the awards stage. The film's director, Rayka Zahtabechi, on accepting the award, said, "I can't believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!"