(See photo album
Last night at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, an Iranian filmmaker’s documentary film based on the life of an undocumented Afghan refugee’s life in Tehran won the prestigious film festival’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, as well as the genre’s Audience Prize. I was there for most of last week’s screenings of the documentary film “Sonita,” and I am so proud of both director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, and the subject of her film, Sonita Alizadeh.
“18-year-old Sonita is an undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living in the suburbs of Tehran. She fights to live the way she wants: As a rapper in spite of all her obstacles she confronts in Iran and her conservative family. In harsh contrast to her goal is the plan of her family – strongly advanced by her mother – to make her a bride and sell her to a new family for the price of $9,000,” is the acclaimed documentary’s
Almost a year ago, a dear friend introduced me to Rokhsareh, who was looking for a concert organizer to have a concert for Sonita in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to my organization, Diaspora Arts Connection’s interest and mission to help provide stages to new artists, I was interested in Sonita whose music video
“Dokhtar Forooshi” I had seen on YouTube a couple of months prior to receiving Rokhsareh’s call.
We scrambled to organize the
concert in a very short period of time, and were able to take Sonita to stage with Afghan rockers Kabul Dreams on March 15, 2015. Footage from the concert became the ending scenes of the film.
I am so proud of these women, each of whom has followed her heart and dreams and has been kind and generous to others on their respect journeys. Two Sundance Film Festival award is no easy accomplishment—Rokhsareh is the very first Iranian to have made this happen. For her part, while studying at a school in Utah, Sonita is serving as an activist against child marriage worldwide, and particularly in Afghanistan. “Sonita's dream aims to end the practice of early and forced marriage in one generation. Driven by Sonita's vision and supported by her music, story, and conviction, we increase awareness, funding and support for programs and policies that work to stop child marriage, on both the global and grassroots levels,” according to her website, Sonita.org.
When I got a chance to go to Sundance Festival this year, I was so happy to follow Rokhsareh and Sonita during several screenings, photo shoots, a concert, panel discussions, and Q & A sessions during the film festival. I watched the awards ceremony online. I took
some photos during the few days I could be at Sundance, and I would like to share them with you.
I wish both Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami and Sonita Alizadeh the very best life can bring them.
About Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami was born in Tehran and studied filmmaking and animation in Tehran Art University. Her published essays and research include the book, “Animated Documentary: A New Way to Express,” published in Persian in 2009. Her short documentary works include Pigeon Fanciers (2000), A Loud Solitude (2010), Born 20 Minutes Late (2010), Going Up the Stairs (2011), and the animated documentary Cyanosis (2007).