If you’ve ever menstruated, you likely have shame-tinged memories around your first period. For many, the rite of passage is marked by a close-mouthed parent, an embarrassing accident, or I-can’t-believe-they-told-me-that misinformation.
What if it were otherwise? Our Vol. 19 short film selection “Long Line of Ladies” follows a Native American girl as she prepares for a ceremony in celebration of her menarche. Everyone in her community knows, and each member helps her prepare — even the men.
Puberty and adolescence are turbulent times no matter what, but “Long Line of Ladies” demonstrates how dialogue and tradition can be anchors in the storm.
the rePROFilm Team
P.S. We’re trying something new. Instead of two newsletters, we’re sending four shorter missives, each with new info + a reminder to check out our film of the month. Look for our next installment on Aug. 8, which will include a column from our resident medical expert Dr. Julia.
“They’ve grown up in this space where it’s OK and safe to be who they are.”
Pimm Allen is talking about her daughters in “Long Line of Ladies,” our Vol. 19 short film selection. The documentary follows Pimm’s second-oldest Ahty as she prepares for a ceremony in celebration of her first period and entry into womanhood.
The Allens are members of the Karuk tribe of Northern California, and the ceremony is an important part of their cultural identity.
But there are other benefits to speaking openly about periods, as Dr. Julia notes in her column this month. And more and more families are finding their own way to celebrate this new stage — to assure their child it’s “OK and safe to be who they are.”
What’s not to love about that?
This Periodical drop is for your ears only.
We’re bringing you two audio experiences related to the short film “Long Line of Ladies.” For the Periodical Podcast, Asha Dahya speaks to co-directors Rayka Zehtabchi & Shaandiin Tome about how they worked in collaboration with the subjects of the documentary to create a celebratory, beautiful film about a girl’s first period. It is, in short, about many ways of listening.
Over on Spotify, we’ve got tunes inspired by themes from “Long Line of Ladies,” including indigenous identity, community, and rites of passage. It’s also the debut of our in-house DJ Teri Mott. 🎧 We’re glad to have her on board.
the rePROFilm Team
P.S. Join us on Instagram Live at 12:40 p.m. Eastern/9:40 a.m. Pacific Time on Aug. 21 for a chat between Alex Sgambati and Gia Frank of The Pad Project. In the meantime, follow us on Insta if you haven’t already.
Our Vol. 19 short film selection “Long Line of Ladies” follows Ahty, a member of the Karuk Tribe of Northern California, as she prepares for a coming-of-age ceremony in celebration of her first period.
Every month, we highlight an organization with a mission that aligns with our film of the month. Rayka Zehtabchi, “Long Line of Ladies” co-director, happens to be a Board Member of The Pad Project, a global movement that began with her first film, the Oscar-winning documentary “Period. End of Sentence.”
Given The Pad Project’s mission to end period stigma worldwide, “Long Line of Ladies” feels something like an extension of the work Zehtabchi began with her first film.
Long Line of Ladies
California girl Ahty is a typical teenager: She attends high school, skateboards, roasts marshmallows around a campfire with her friends.
Less typically, she prepares for Ihuk, or flower dance ceremony, which the Karuk people hold in celebration of a girl’s first period.
In contrast to the shame and secrecy experienced by many young people, menstruation is out in the open in this indigenous community.
Or at least it has been since the early 1990s, when some Karuk people restored a tradition that colonization interrupted.
For months, Ahty’s community comes together to prepare for the days-long ceremony. From a toddler cracking acorns to elders offering guidance, each member has a role.
Ultimately, this short documentary is about far more than menstruation: It’s a story of cultural identity, belonging, and community care. “That dance floor is your world,” Ahty’s father tells her. “Don’t be afraid of anything that comes out there. We all got you.” — Emily Christensen
The short documentary “Long Line of Ladies” follows a young girl, Ahty, as she prepares for her Ihuk, a ceremony that girls in the Karuk tribe of Northern California experience after they have their first period. The intensive, lengthy preparations culminate in a four-day guided journey, blindfolded and fasting, on sacred ancestral lands.
In one scene, Ahty’s father talks about the importance of her first period. He has observed that men outside his tribe “don’t talk about it,” and yet he’s comfortable discussing this milestone with a group of male relatives. Both men and women work together to prepare for the ceremony. An elder encourages the young men to “make sure they are listening,” because this is an important part of their culture that was nearly lost.
In another scene, one of Ahty’s friends jokes that getting a driver’s license is her marker for entry into adulthood. There are parallels between Ihuk and getting a license: Both involve a period of practice and learning followed by a kind of test., and passage earns increased freedom and responsibilities. And yet the driver’s license process involves far more open communication, excitement and anticipation than does a first period.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if menstruation were not a taboo subject? If we could celebrate it instead, as Ahty’s community does in the film? Read on for Dr. Julia’s discussion questions.
When a girl’s first period calls for celebration, not stigma
Shaandiin Tome writes about how she and her “Long Line of Ladies” co-director Rayka Zehtabchi hope viewers will consider how to honor young people as they come of age. “What began as a film about periods grew into a much greater story of community, family and tradition.”
The empowering way black moms are celebrating their daughter’s first periods
“I wanted my daughter to have a different relationship to her body than I had growing up,” says one mother who planned a “first moon party” for her daughter. “My daughter received beautiful notes filled with love, encouragement, and reassurance about her power” from her peers, family members, and elders in her community.
With special guests Rayka Zehtabchi & Shaandiin Tome
On this month’s episode of the Periodical Podcast, Asha Dahya speaks with the “Long Line of Ladies” co-directors about “a different kind of filmmaking” driven by listening, collaboration, and representation — the non-performative kind.
After making the Oscar-winning short “Period. End of Sentence.,” Zehtabchi wanted to tell a stigma-free story about periods. That led her to researching tribal traditions and ultimately partnering with Tome, an indigenous filmmaker who skipped her own coming-of-age ceremony. To make their film, they established “complete and utter trust” — with each other, but also with the Allens, the Karuk family at the center of the film.
“Something we’re really proud of about this film is that … there isn’t a lot of conflict in it. It feels like it exists in a world that is celebratory.” — Shaandiin Tome
“We’ve seen people from all walks of life have really intense emotional reactions (to the film). And it’s because of love. You know, it’s like a hug.” — Rayka Zehtabchi
Bonus: Zehtabchi talks about how the documentary started with her reading a blog post by Pimm Allen about her older daughter’s Ihuk ceremony. The post is still online and you can read it yourself.
When your community loves and supports you, becoming a woman—and being a woman—is a cause for celebration. Welcome to the party, girls! Life is a quilt of challenges, but you’re safe with us. This playlist is inspired by the film, “Long Line of Ladies,” directed by Shaandiin Tome & Rayka Zehtabchi.
In the words of the great Buffy Sainte-Marie, “Take heart and take care of your link with Life/ Oh carry it on.”
Meet our Music Master
We are so pleased to introduce you to our House DJ, Teri Mott, who will be curating playlists that move you.
Teri is a Kansas writer and actor who has worked in communications at not-for-profit community and arts organizations for 40 years.
An armchair astronaut and authenticity advocate, she is a 2023 fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.
Rumored to have worked everywhere in Wichita, her skills include low-tech party DJ, dive bartender, zine publisher, tarot reader, hostage negotiator, herb gardener, magician’s assistant and fierce defender of repro rights.
The Pad Project
In 2013, a group of women launched a pad-making operation in a small village in India. The subject of “Period. End of Sentence.,” the organization has continued to grow, placing pad-making machines and launching many other projects worldwide toward its mission of ending period stigma and empowering women and all menstruators. These include menstrual cup distribution, washable pad programs, and menstrual health education. In the U.S., the Pads Across America initiative raises funds for nonprofits to distribute menstrual products in their communities.
You can also watch the 26-minute film “Period. End of Sentence.” for free, (no Netflix subscription required.)
Learn more about the org through this convo between Alex Sgambati and Gia Frank of The Pad Project. (Insta Live)
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