Rayka Zehtabchi is an Iranian-American film director based in Los Angeles. Her directorial debut, Madaran, is an Iranian language short film that has screened worldwide at established film festivals, winning jury awards at Hollyshorts, Urbanworld, and Cleveland International. Madaran qualified for the 89th Academy Awards in 2016.
Rayka’s short documentary, Period. End of Sentence., is about a group of village women in Northern India who start a sanitary pad business in an effort to improve feminine hygiene and de-stigmatize menstruation. Along with the film’s release, the Period team co-founded the non-profit “The Pad Project” to fight the stigma of menstruation and improve feminine hygiene worldwide. Period double-qualified for the academy awards in 2018, winning Jury and audience awards at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival and Cleveland International. The film also took home Jury and audience awards from AFI Fest among many others and won the Oscar in the Documentary Short category of the 91st Academy Awards®.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- Where Rayka went to film school, and how she was approached to direct her short documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” right out of film school
- How Rayka’s first film festival in high school shaped her interests in filmmaking, and how she found purpose and community in filmmaking
- Rayka shares the experience of losing her father while she was attending USC film school, and how she felt pulled in different directions
- Rayka discusses her Iranian-language short film Madaran and why filming it helped her feel connected to her father and her Iranian heritage
- How Rayka was approached to direct “Period. End of Sentence.” while she was in her senior year at film school, and why the subject matter was a reality check for her
- Why “Period. End of Sentence.” was a powerful and necessary story to shine a light on an unspoken issue, and how Rayka directed it to be organic and authentic
- What impact filming “Period. End of Sentence.” had on Rayka personally and emotionally, and how she was inspired by the women she filmed
- How Rayka and the filmmakers got involved with and launched the Pad Project, and how the film has exploded and created global awareness of this issue
- How Rayka and her team turned forty hours of raw film footage into a 25-minute short documentary
- What challenges Rayka faced in getting visibility for her film, and her thoughts on when she realized the film qualified to be submitted to the Academy Awards
- What it was like accepting her Oscar, and what Rayka has planned for the future going forward