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Sixteen Decisions

     Cambridge, Massachusetts's Gayle Ferraro traveled to rural Bengaldesh for her first video documentary, where she focused on a group of deeply impoverished women who have been the benificiaries of an enlightened loan program through Bengaldeshi's Grameen Bank. Each woman gets $60 to start up a business, and that meagre money is apparently enough to spin these women's lives around: financially, spiritually, and in terms of finding they actually have voices. Ferraro also interviewed Dr.Muhammed Yunus, an ex-college professor who formed the Grameen Bank, and who is responsible for millions of dollars in loans to those who regular banks (think FLEET!) would turn away. The Grameen Bank also strives to educate its poor and uneducated customers toward a radically altered lifestyle: adapting a girl-scout-like "sixteen decisions" to a better existence, everything from vowing to boil water and build pit-latrines to speaking out against dowries and child marriages.

     In her voice-over, Ferraro notes that any kind of exercise besides sitting and standing is an unheard-of stretch for these women, which explains a bit why Sixteen Decisions is such a static watch. Still, it's hard to understand why the well-intentioned videomaker didn't shoot some of her women at their exciting new employments, with a Grameen Bank loan in hand. Also, she should have spent more time videoing her chief subject, a woman named Selina, on Selina's most liberated day of a pained, semi-slave life: going shopping with Ferraro at a town five miles down the road.

     Sixteen Decisions is paired with DIRT: The Next Generation, a bouncy video short made locally in Boston, and collectively, by four teenagers who are part of the DIRT crew of sixty, youth employees of the Lincoln-based The Food Project. Each year, this group grows 80,000 pounds of organic vegetables and distributes the goods to homeless persons. This little video shows inner-city teenagers toiling in the fields, learning ecology and good citizenry as they work each Saturday for 42 weeks a year. Cool.

(April, 2000)

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