Lula Asplund (L), a student at Walden School of Liberal Arts, has set up an upcoming screening of Girl Rising. Actress Freida Pinto (R) spoke at the Sundance screening of the film. Photo: Lara Candland
At the Sundance Film Festival in January, we witnessed a distinct shift in filmmaking that is celebrated and rewarded. Since its opening in 1978, the festival has showcased predominantly the work of male directors. This year, however, for the first time in the festival’s history, 50 percent of the directors were women. And so, the role of women, both on and behind the screen, were revisited and reenvisioned.
One of these films that cast women not as sex objects or as silent companions in a male-dominated world is Girl Rising, which Lula Asplund, a 14-year-old freshman at the Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo, has helped secure a screening in Provo later this month. Girl Rising is a documentary directed by Richard Robbins that explores the issue of women’s education around the globe, an issue we perhaps take for granted in the United States even as our public education system crumbles before our eyes. Sometimes it’s difficult to grasp that education is not an opportunity afforded to all children, especially those born with vaginas. Girl Rising tells the inspiring stories of nine girls from nine different countries. Each story was written by nine celebrated writers, and nine renowned actresses narrated the respective stories of each of these girls. "Girl Rising showcases the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world,” according to the film’s website.
Asplund attended the Sundance event, where award-winning actress Freida Pinto and critically acclaimed author, Edwidge Danticat (who are both narrators in the documentary) were in attendance. “Freida Pinto was really inspiring. I don’t usually like to hear actors speak, but Pinto did a good job,” Asplund says en route to our Beto’s lunch date. “I thought that it was a really good opportunity, and I have a hard time turning down good opportunities.” Asplund was so inspired by the event that she volunteered to organize the upcoming screening of the film in Provo as a part of the ongoing national series. She reached out to friends, family members and the community at large, urging them to buy tickets. Through her efforts, she secured the screening by selling 100 tickets.
“Girls education is a really important thing,” Asplund says emphatically. “Did you know that a girl who gets one extra year of education makes up to 20 percent more in her adult career? So it pays off a lot for girls to get a good education.” I don’t know about you, but when I was 14, I was too busy listening to the Garden State soundtrack and crying about my most recent crush to be putting together screenings about gender equality. Asplund’s work to enrich our community and to raise awareness around such a crucial issue is truly an inspiration. “This cause speaks to me personally because my sisters and my mom have all taught me that education is an equal right, and I really believe that,” she says.