Incredible true story of girl banned from singing
Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami set out to make a film about an Afghan refugee rapper – and ended up helping her escape, explains Annie Waite. Sonita Alizadeh, profiled in the film Sonita, on at the Electric Palace cinema this Friday and Saturday, narrowly avoided being sold into a forced marriage.
As Ghaem Maghami’s film portrays, Sonita is a feisty, spirited, young woman who dreams of being a famous rapper. But as an Afghan teen living in exile in Tehran, her dreams are dangerous: the Iranian government doesn’t allow girls to sing, and at home, she is expected to become a teenage bride. With Ghaem Maghami’s help (she had to “buy” Sonita’s freedom for $2,000), Sonita is offered a chance to turn a dream into a reality, but a perilous journey lies ahead.
Rap gave Sonita a voice
Speaking in The Guardian, Ghaem Maghami says she didn’t originally intend to make the film about Alizadeh:
“She didn’t want to say hello or thank you,” says Ghaem Maghami, which didn’t exactly make her “an attractive documentary character”. But soon Ghaem Maghami – whose previous films have looked at outsider artists, including a schizophrenic street painter – was intrigued by Sonita’s determination. “She wanted a voice,” recalls the director, “even though she was too shy to say her name. She said that as a child she used to like pop music but she had ‘a million things to say’ – so needed rap.”
Luckily, Sonita the film was completed eventually – after three years of filming – and it has gone on to win 18 awards around the world, including the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, which called it “an intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood.”
But we don’t want to reveal the whole story here, and encourage you to support your local community cinema by catching the film this weekend at the Electric Palace, so you can find out the unpredictable and remarkable full story of Sonita’s journey for yourself.
Tickets and further information
Rhythmix Music Charity will be at the screenings for a Q&A after the film.
Friday 27 and and Saturday 28 January 2017: Doors open 6.45pm for 7.30pm start.
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