41N Film Festival: Sonita


Sonita, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, was shown at the 41 North Film Festival at Michigan Tech. Sonita followed the life of an Afghan refugee, Sonita, who is living in Iran with her sister and niece. Sonita is an aspiring rapper who wishes her parents were Michael Jackson and Rihanna. Sonita, only being 14 when the documentary started, had lived through a lot. She and her family has had a run in with the Taliban while trying to go to Iran and her mother and brother wanted to sell her as a bride. In one heartbreaking scene in the film, Sonita is in a therapy class and is asked to act out a scene in her life. This is where she opens up about her family’s run in with the Taliban. In the scene she recreated, her father and brother were held at gunpoint as the sister-in-law, mother, and herself sat in the car and watched. Sonita broke down in tears while recreating the scene. Both her mother and the social worker that she works with have described her as being a strong person and Sonita displays this personality throughout the entire film. Sonita is heavily involved in her music and speaking out against young girls having price tags.

While Sonita is trying to get music producers in Iran to help her with her music, she hears that her brother has negotiated a price for her to be sold as a bride. Sonita reaches out to her mother in hopes that she will stop her brother from selling her. When her mother arrives to Iran, she says that she is there to take Sonita back to Afghanistan to get married. When Sonita questions the marriage, she is told that her brother needs the money for his wife. Sonita is heartbroken and loses hope. At one point in the film, Sonita asks the director if she can buy her since she’s for sale. She also asks if the director can find someone to buy her. One of Sonita’s friends is also in the process of being sold as a bride by her family. Sonita raps to her friend about a message she wants to give to her father asking why she is being sold and the disappointment and betrayal she feels. In documentaries, the director usually does not get directly involved in the lives of their subjects but this documentary was different. After the child protection agency says they cannot help Sonita’s situation, director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami intervenes. Rokhsareh gives the mother $2000 to buy Sonita more time to figure things out in Iran. The mother agrees to the arrangement. During this time Sonita works hard to make her voice be heard and focuses on her music. Sonita wrote a song and created a video titled Brides for Sale. Director Maghami enters Sonita in a contest in which she wins Best Rapper and Best Female Rapper. Sonita is ecstatic. Sonita gets a call from an art school in Utah where she is offered a scholarship to come and study. Sonita and director Maghami prepare to go to Afghanistan to retrieve Sonita’s birth certificate so she can get a passport. They both have concerns about Sonita being forced to stay in Afghanistan or not being able to get back out. In the end everything works out for Sonita. She is able to get her passport and makes it to the school in Utah. Sonita is as her mother and social worker described her. She is strong and inspiring. Sonita has, and still is, raising awareness about young girls being sold as brides and she is not letting anyone get in the way of her passion.

Here is a link for Sonita’s moving video Brides for Sale:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=girls+not+brides+sonita

Neffertia Tyner, Multiliteracies Center Coach