Draining yet incredibly compelling.

by Martin Hafer

This documentary came out in 2012, and generally I try to review movies around the time they debut. However, this is such a compelling film that I really think it’s imperative that you see it if you get a chance. And I feel it’s important that I write about It’s a Girl!.

The film is about a horrible problem in both India and China today — the prevailing feeling that girls are a burden. Why this is and how all this plays out is a bit different — In India, babies are routinely killed by their families. We are not talking about a few hundred children, but a multitude. I was shocked at the start of the film as a woman admitted to killing all eight of her babies because they were girls. The most shocking part about this is that she said all this with a smile on her face! Apparently, in this land, a family is traditionally considered blessed when they have a son, yet when they have a girl it is just a burden — another mouth to feed and a girl who will need a dowry in the future to basically pay a man to take her. As a result of these attitudes, there also has been a proliferation of doctors who perform illegal ultrasounds, and if the fetus is a girl it’s aborted. A third common alternative is to just abandon the child to the streets, and orphanages are filled to bursting with girls.

The problem in China is a bit different. While gendercide is illegal in India (though practically never prosecuted), in China abortions are a governmental policy. While there are also social and cultural pressures to have boys just as in India, most families are only allowed one child — so they are ultra-careful and choose to keep fetuses that are boys. And, if it’s a girl, it could mean that if they have the child, they won’t be able to have a boy. So, children are also murdered or abandoned.

Both portions of the film are filled with sad stories, such as women being murdered because they gave birth to girls, mothers going into hiding to prevent folks from killing their daughters, as well as a group of women talking about and demonstrating how they murder their baby girls. All of this is emotionally draining to watch, and it’s important you have some Kleenex handy and perhaps see it with someone.

As to the quality of the film, it’s very well made and instead of preaching to the audience, it allows Indian and Chinese people to talk about their experiences. This is a great choice, as it makes the stories much more compelling and it comes off less as outsiders trying to tell these people how to act but instead shows folk within their cultures pushing for changes in attitudes and laws. My only complaint, and it’s a very minor one, is that the narration sounds as if they show is geared more towards a younger audience. But despite this, it still doesn’t pull its punches and is a terrific film. Like many of the best documentaries, this one pushes for change and also makes an emotional connection with the viewer.

Martin’s Grade: A