Daughters of the Forest

56 min. Bullfrog Films. 2017. $295. $95 (rental). ISBN 1941545793.
Gr 8 Up—While the opening minutes focus on fern fronds, bird song, and the dwindling rainforest footprint in Paraguay, the documentary quickly zeroes in on how teenage girls are saving themselves, guided by caring boarding school teachers at Centro Educativo Mbaracayú. Dedicated school personnel meet with Indigenous families one by one, making the case for parents to help their daughters break the cycle of poverty and early pregnancy with education and meaningful work. At the agroforestry school deep in the Mbaracayú Nature Forest Reserve, Bianca, Valvina, Numila, and others learn ecologically sound skills, including sustainable farming, maintaining a tree nursery, and entrepreneurial habits that culminate in a technical science degree. Filmed over five years, the girls form friendships, set goals, discuss contraception, and, in some cases, drop out to join boyfriends or families when their future potential takes a back seat to immediate concerns. School founder Celsa Acosta, a particularly effective advocate, shares a part of her story, in hopes the girls can learn from her experience. The film follows up postgraduation with those who pursued educational goals and others who returned to their villages, now with babies at their sides. The broad human interest focus means the film is likely to remain relevant for years to come. (In Spanish, with optional English and Spanish subtitles.)
VERDICT This film will find its best use in humanities and social studies, rather than ecology or science, classes. Opportunities for discussing personal goals, persistence, disrupting a cycle of poverty, gender roles, and differing cultural values abound.

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