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When the anti-violence organization V-Day announced plans to gather a billion people worldwide on Feb. 14 in a dancing demonstration to end violence against women and girls, some people said the goal was too ambitious. It couldn't be done.
Not only did they draw a billion dancers last year, they got it on film.
"One Billion Rising," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month and is now free to watch online, documents the global movement through the eyes of professional and amateur filmmakers in 207 countries. V-Day founder Eve Ensler described it as both a celebration and call to action, as another anti-violence dance-in is planned for this Valentine's Day on Friday.
"It's a document of the biggest mass action in the history of the world probably, but definitely to end violence against women," the playwright and activist said in an interview during Sundance. "Seeing that global solidarity is possible; seeing it through the arts and through dancing; seeing the amazing creativity of all the costumes and the performances - it's just so inspiring to see what we can do when we join together as a world."
The film shows participants dancing in gymnasiums, classrooms, bedrooms, parking lots, theaters and public plazas. The breadth of countries and cultures involved is shown through newscast clips, landscapes, dance styles and diverse costumes.
Actress and activist (or "actrivess," as she likes to say) Rosario Dawson, who serves on the V-Day board, said the global scope of "One Billion Rising" is heartening - and warranted.
"One billion people standing up and rising around the world in such a huge action has never been seen before," she said. "It's beautiful to see so many people who have been victims themselves, who have been touched by violence in some way, now rising above it and extending their hand to other people."
Ensler said she hopes the film helps expand participation in this year's event, One Billion Rising for Justice. Events are planned in South Africa, Sudan, Syria, India, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru and across the United States and Europe.
Ending violence against women is an easy cause to support, Ensler said.
"If we are beating, raping, cutting, undermining, burning, selling women, we are destroying the basis of life itself," she said. "And if one in three women is beaten or raped, that's most of us. If it's not happening to you, you know it can happen to you."