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Documentary About Skateboarding Girls In War-Torn Afghanistan Wins An Oscar

Directed by Dysinger and produced by Andreicheva, the documentary is worlds apart from the usual "downtrodden helpless women" representation of the country's female population.

Documentary About Skateboarding Girls In War-Torn Afghanistan Wins An Oscar
Image Source: IMDb

When Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva stepped onto the 92nd Academy Awards stage on Sunday night, it wasn't just a win for all the women struggling to break through Hollwyood's male-dominated filmmaking circle. The Oscars in their hands were also a win for the brave young girls in Afghanistan who are reclaiming their narrative from a skateboarding arena in one of the world's most notorious war zones. Directed by Dysinger and produced by Andreicheva, the documentary Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl) is worlds apart from the usual 'downtrodden helpless women' representation of the nation's female population.


Accepted the Oscar for Documentary (Short Subject) from presenter Mark Ruffalo on Sunday, Dysinger said, "This movie is my love letter to the brave girls of that country. They teach girls courage, to raise your hand, to say I am here, I have something to say and I'm going to take that ramp, don't try to stop me." According to Deadline, Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl) tells the tale of the young students at Skateistan—a school in Kabul offering kids the chance to study the three R's and pick up skateboarding.


For the repressed girls of Afghanistan, Skateistan represents an unheard-of opportunity. "It means the world to them. I’m a teacher, I’m a professor, and I have never in my life seen kids that were so hungry to learn and just so happy to learn because they know it’s not a given and they like being engaged with their minds," Dysinger explained to Deadline. She noted that if it wasn't for Skateistan, these girls "would be very much in the house around the women helping out, hanging onto skirts, trying not to be bored and taking care of the boys or the babies, whichever there are more of or who needs it."


"One of the things I put in the movie because I thought it was so wonderful, the teacher said, ‘I teach them if you only know a little bit of the answer, go ahead, raise your hand. You learn the rest at the board.’ I thought that’s so brilliant, because really what these women are doing is teaching these kids, these girls, to raise their hand. It’s like the first act of courage as a woman in that kind of culture is to say, ‘Excuse me, I know the answer. I have an idea, I think this is what we should do," the director added.


Attending Skateistan also opens up a much bigger world to these girls—one they would've never known from within the confines of their home. "Someone who is very poor will see someone who’s not so poor, someone who’s Sunni sees someone who’s Shia. They get to witness other kinds of families, other kinds of lives which they wouldn’t normally get to do because it’s a very enclosed society," Dysinger observed. Having spent many years in Afghanistan, Dysinger knew she needed an all-female crew to penetrate the hidden world of Afghanistan's women and girls.


"It was very clear that to get it right, it had to be an all-female crew. I was constantly crossing this barrier between very serious men being very serious, drinking very serious tea and walk back [to another part of the dwelling] and there would be a pile of kids, a bunch of women trying to get some food down and grandmother yelling, ‘You’re doing the potatoes wrong.’ It was a huge difference," she said. Talking of her refreshing portrayal of Afghanistan's women, Dysinger said, "It’s a movie I’ve wanted to make—not the skateboarding part, but the girls part; the skateboarding was extra but effective, it seems. And it was just such a pleasure to be able to get my favorite part of Afghanistan, which is the girls. I just love these kids. I just love them so much and it was just so nice to be able to bring them into the world where they’re rarely seen as the people they actually are." 


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