Voices can be powerful and in the film Sonita, by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, the voices are definitely strong and create an impact, the rules are being bent and broken. The film has already won the crowd’s heart at the Dharamshala International Film Festival where it was recently screened.
The film is based in Afghanistan where a young 16-year-old Sonita Alizadeh starts a revolution and the journey plays out as the film progresses. Sonita’s weapon is her passion for rap that she uses to fight conventions and break down the walls. The film by itself is interesting as Rokhsareh gets involved in the documentary by buying Sonita’s freedom for $2000. The film has won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the IDFA Amsterdam Film Festival and the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Rokhsareh met Sonita through a cousin who worked in a non-profit organisation. Their bond changes over three years and Rokhsareh while documenting Sonita’s life also becomes a part of her journey by affecting it.
Sonita who always dreamt of becoming a famous rapper is a refugee from Tehran. It’s interesting to see Sonita’s dream reflect in her everyday life; when asked who she would want her parents to be if given a choice, and she picks Michael Jackson and Rihanna. Sonita is an avid rap follower and loves Iranian rap artist Yas who is also someone who broke down the stereotype by being the first to have been officially sanctioned to perform in Iran.
Sonita’s life decisions are not left to her. In the documentary, Sonita is asked by her mother to return home and marry the man her mother has found for her so that they can use the money that would come from this arrangement in return to buy Sonita’s brother a wife. There is an intervention at this point where Sonita asks Rokhsareh if she would buy her. While the film crew is strictly against this, Rokhsareh goes ahead and buys Sonita’s freedom for a few more months at $2000. She also helps Sonita produce a music video called ‘Brides For Sale’ talking about the condition of women in Afghanistan.