A Celebration Of Menstruation In The Award-Winning Short Documentary “Long Line Of Ladies”

A celebration of menstruation sounds like an oxymoron. We’re used to living in a world where periods are heavily stigmatized and considered taboo or dirty in so many places. But not everywhere, as the award-winning documentary ‘Long Line of Ladies’ has shown us.

The film directed by Sundance Film Festival alum Shaandiin Tome and Academy Award-winning director Rayka Zehtabchi, tells the story of a girl named Ahty and her community as they prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming-of-age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of Northern California where they celebrate a girl moving into womanhood once she begins menstruation.

During August, the film and its directors were featured on the RePRO Film podcast and periodical newsletter, which you can subscribe to for free at reprofilm.org.

Hosted and produced by our founder Asha Dahya, the podcast was a rich conversation about representation on screen, the importance of showcasing underrepresented stories, and the unique position of being a film that doesn’t feel the obligation to portray conflict.

“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,” says Shaandiin in the interview.

The filmmakers share how powerful it is to see the men and boys in the family play an integral role in Ahty’s Ihuk, and how even this representation is such a disruption to the way menstruation is discussed in media and society.

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.

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 a world where we are seeing periods treated as a joke, as well as seeing the dangerous impact of when normal bodily function is stigmatized, it is a welcome breath of fresh air to see a community and culture treat it as normal and beautiful. And clearly this is hitting the right note with many audiences since its release on the film festival circuit.

“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,” describes Rayka in the interview.

Be sure to listen to the full podcast interview below, and share it with every person in your life. Societal change begins with each of us, and seeing a different perspective on such a stigmatized issue could be the catalyst for changing hearts and minds.