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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fly Like a Girl is an inspiring documentary about historical and contemporary women pioneers in aviation. It includes interviews with a variety of notable, record-setting pilots and astronauts, as well as a young girl who dreams of being a pilot like her many heroes. Director Katie Wiatt weaves together in-depth interviews with various women in aviation, from a 90-plus-year-old veteran of WWII's Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) to elite pilots trained in the Marine Corps, NASA, and aerobatics. There's discussion of pilot deaths and dangerous wartime missions and a couple of uses of "damn" and "hell," but iffy content is minimal. Families can talk about what they learn about these extraordinary women and what women have accomplished in the field of aviation, as well as the movie's themes of courage, perseverance, and teamwork.
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What's the story?
FLY LIKE A GIRL begins by spotlighting a young girl who dreams of becoming a pilot, even attending a charter school that offers flight simulation. Playing off the girl's interest in women in aviation, the film provides interviews with such pioneering pilots and astronauts as Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to fly solo around the world; Sen. Tammy Duckworth; Capt. Venice Armour, the first Black female naval aviator in the Marine Corps (and the first Black female combat pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces); Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to become a U.S. national aerobatic champion; Nicole Stott, a flight engineer and NASA astronaut who went to space on the Expedition crew; and 90-something Bernice Falk Haydu, a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) in World War II who had to wait more than 60 years to get her wings from the government for her service. Directed by Katie Wiatt, the movie is a tribute to and chronicle of what these women have accomplished in a male-dominated field.
Is it any good?
This insightful, inspiring documentary showcases women aviators who've proven time and time again that flying isn't just for boys and men. By framing the film around young Florida girl Afton Kinkade, an aspiring aviator, Fly Like a Girl is able to show how it's not just the very earliest women pilots who made history. Even in the 1990s and 2000s, women were still breaking barriers, fighting in combat, earning medals, and winning competitions for the first time. All of the women interviewed have fascinating stories. Armour, whose nickname in the Marines apparently was "Fly Girl," is particularly compelling while telling the harrowing story of a mission. Nonagenarian Haydu is fascinating and her story educational: Even many adults likely haven't heard of the WASP initiative and how its pilots were deprived of their full military standing for decades.
Perhaps the only quibble is that with so many women to feature, viewers might wish they had more time to delve into their individual stories, rather than getting snapshots of each one. It's difficult not to want to immediately look up their backgrounds and accomplishments. Wagstaff's incredible aerobatics, Stott's space walk, Duckworth's disciplined service, and Waiz's around-the-world trip are all worthy of fuller investigation. At least Fly Like a Girl shares their names and outstanding achievements with a broad audience. All of them are aware of -- and, in some cases, have experienced -- systemic and personal sexism and discrimination against their abilities. But they persisted, and now Kinkade, like all girls her age, has so many more role models than the generations who came before her.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Fly Like a Girl depicts the obstacles and sexism the women aviators overcame to fly. Why do you think it's important to continue to discuss what women have accomplished in fields traditionally dominated by men?
Discuss the intersectionality expressed by women such as Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Shaesta Waiz, and Capt. Vernice Armour. Why is it vital to acknowledge the women's race, ethnicity, disability, and even immigration status when discussing their achievements? What extra challenges did the women face due to their identity?
What did the documentary teach you about the history of women in aviation, wartime history, and NASA?
- On DVD or streaming: October 9, 2020
- Director: Katie Wiatt
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: October 25, 2020
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