Atlanta producers' film will help mark International Women's Day

"When you look at the most marginalized group on the planet, it's women and girls," said Scott Thigpen, Atlanta-based producer of the new documentary "A Powerful Noise." "You have to give them a voice in their societies, to have a say in how things are done."

To note International Women's Day on Thursday, the charity CARE is presenting "A Powerful Noise" in 450 movie theaters (including nine in Atlanta) as a special one-time screening, followed by a simulcast of a town hall meeting in New York.

Thigpen, a Georgia State graduate, and director Tom Cappello, also an Atlantan, focused on three women activists on three continents to stand in for women worldwide. They are:

• Bui My Hanh, an HIV-positive activist in Vietnam. Her husband infected her, then died, but despite the shame associated with HIV in her country, she runs a support group for women and passes out condoms and AIDS information.

• Jacqueline Dembele, known as Madame Urbain, runs several girls' schools in the slums of Bamako, Mali, rescuing girls who come from villages to the city and can end up as prostitutes or abused servants.

• Nada Markovic, a working mother of three in Bosnia, who runs an agricultural co-op and fair trade market for war widows and works to overcome ethnic divisions in her country.

Thigpen and Cappello finished the film last year and debuted it at the Tribeca Film Festival. Then they opted for a nontraditional roll-out.

"The problem with making independent documentaries is that most of them don't get seen unless they have Michael Moore or Al Gore or someone like that," Thigpen said. "It was very clear to Tom and I we were not going to have the impact by going from one art-house screen to another, city by city.

"We wanted to have a one-night event nationwide that was gonna really have an impact," he continued. "We can do more in one night than 99 percent of all documentaries can do in the course of a year."

The theater evening will also include information on how attendees can help the women they've been watching, and a panel discussion that includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, CARE CEO Dr. Helene Gayle and actress Natalie Portman.

Even though "Powerful Noise" is about the struggles of women and is being pitched to a mostly female audience, Thigpen said he's been careful to avoid male-bashing.

"It's important that we do it in a way that isn't pointing fingers or saying men are the problem. It's simply saying that women are the solution. There's a lot of men that support this effort. But in a lot of these countries there are deeply ingrained cultural beliefs, and that takes time to change."

The DVD will be released in July.

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