Iranian-American Filmmaker Wins Oscar for Menstruation Movie

By Tara Biglari

Filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi made history this week as the first Iranian-American ever to win an Oscar. Her film ‘Period. End of Sentence’ — about the stigma around menstruation in parts of the world — took home the coveted award for best documentary short at the 91st Academy Awards in Hollywood.

“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar,” said the 25-year-old during her acceptance speech.

“I’m not crying because I’m on my period, or anything!” Zehtabchi laughed during her acceptance speech.

Zehtabchi’s journey to the Oscars started with a phone call from her best friend, cinematographer Sam Davis, who recommended her to a producer looking to make a film about period shaming in rural Indian villages. After visiting India, the duo returned to the states and founded a non-profit called “The Pad Project” to target the stigma of menstruation and improve female hygiene across the globe.

[aesop_image img=”” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”off” caption=”91st Academy Awards – Oscars Photo Room – Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2019. Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton pose backstage with their award for Best Documentary Short Subject award for the film ‘Period. End Of Sentence.’ REUTERS/Mike Segar
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The film focuses on a group of women in a Northern India village who start a sanitary pad business. Zehtabchi — who in an interview with the American Film Institute said “I was never hindered by my period because I always had pads and tampons at my disposal, growing up in California” — was heartbroken to discover the lack of access to these basic items of hygiene around the world.

“Being a woman is enough of a reason to be inspired and want to take action,” she added in the interview.

Zehtabchi flew to India twice in 2017 to make the film, just a year after graduating from university. The 25-minute long film details how a deep-rooted stigma has prevented girls and young women from staying in school, worshipping in temples, and living their daily life normally.

Zehtabchi, a film director based in Los Angeles, made her directorial debut with “Madaran,” a Persian-language short film that explores a mother’s decision to end or spare the life of her son’s killer. It received critical praise and jury awards at Hollyshorts, Urbanworld and Cleveland International.

A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Zehtabchi has always had a passion for telling human stories that bring awareness to little-known social causes.

For more information on her works, visit her website at the link below: