While well-worn charges of aestheticizing poverty could easily be leveled against Girl Rising, its eye-popping colors, stark black-and-white, and inventive animation that by turns help illustrate the stories of the unfortunate children profiled feel like a fit expression of hope against a backdrop of misery. The film is divided into nine episodes, each employing a different visual strategy to recreate the true stories of an international assortment of real-life girls, each of whom has been paired with a famous writer to help narrate her story. (The words are in turn read by a celebrity ringer.) Among the narratives: a young Haitian girl who insists on attending a post-earthquake startup school despite not being able to afford the entrance fee, and an Egyptian girl who stabs a rapist. Director Richard Robbins delights in dotting his screen with bursts of color, from a shimmering orange dress to the deep purple of a pen cap, while the stories, shaped by anecdotal brevity, are often charmingly modest. Only an insistence on blandly inspirational rhetoric and a series of didactic interludes threaten to reduce the film to a PSA about the plight of young women in developing countries.
Directed by Richard Robbins
Opens March 7, Village East Cinema