Now more than ever, the suppression of females in certain societies has come to the forefront of our culture. Living On One’s Rosa – These Storms joins that conversation with a powerfully raw documentary about Rosa Coj Bocel. If you are a crier at all—whether it’s because your sad, happy, angry, or just can’t help yourself —than get your tissue box ready. This is one of those films that will take you on a very emotional journey and probably leave your face an embarrassing mess of liquid.
The film takes place in an impoverished rural village of Guatemala, where the norm for most young girls is to drop out of school around the third or sixth grade to help at home. Rosa asks the poignant question to camera: “why didn’t I get to go to school?” This passion for wanting more and recognizing the unfairness of her situation launches her on a journey toward adulthood and independence.
The filmmakers of Living On One—Directors Sean Kusanagi and Hannah Gregg as well as Producers, Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple—tell Rosa’s story in a very personal way. They lived with her for weeks during the filming of their feature film Living On One Dollar and for this particular film they let Rosa, who also stars in the feature doc, tell her own story. In many ways, this film was Rosa’s outlet for not only moving on from her own hardships, but a way to encourage other girls around the world to overcome even the most extreme difficulties.
The filmmakers elaborate upon their filmmaking process: “After meeting Rosa during the making of a feature documentary in 2011, she opened up about her desire to go back to school to be a nurse. We were inspired by her commitment, but it was not until three years later, after traveling back to her village and spending time with her each year, that we learned the incredibly difficult and poignant reason why she wanted to become a nurse. In thinking about the style for creating Rosa – These Storms, we knew that we wanted this piece to be told entirely in Rosa’s voice, allowing and encouraging her to talk of her past and her dreams for the future in whatever way she chose.”
Over the course of the film, we watch Rosa’s harrowing story—she was raped, became pregnant, and then abandoned. In her native community, women are regarded as less than men, and as such, her family did not accept her and her unborn child. Despite these hardships, Rosa would keep her baby—even after finding out that her daughter had a rare condition called hydrocephalus.
Though she did as much as she could for her child, she couldn’t save her. In the wake of this tragedy, she swore that she would have given her daughter an education. So Rosa continued school and managed to change the minds and hearts of her family, while also inspiring other girls in her village to stand out and follow their dreams. (Note: at this point in the film, I was a disgusting mess with wet tissues around my computer screen.)
Rosa – These Storms is a wonderful short documentary that offers a rare perspective from a woman who would have never had a voice in her society without the help of these filmmakers.
Living On One is a non-profit production organization that uses filmmaking to inspire action around global issues. Rosa’s story has raised over $410,000 toward global microfinance and education scholarships for disadvantaged people. Forget the film festivals, these filmmakers are changing the world.
What’s next for Living On One? They are releasing a feature documentary on Syrian refugees, called Salam Neighbor, that premiered at AFI DOCS Film Festival. You can check out screening information and their latest trailer at www.SalamNeighbor.org.