By Iminza Keboge
Published February 2, 2016
A film about an 18-year-old Afghan refugee living in Iran has won two awards at Sundance Film Festival.
SONITA, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, has won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.
Inspired by Michael Jackson and Rihanna, Sonita dreams of becoming a big-name rapper. But to her family, she’d bring in US$9000 as a bride.
Director Maghami poignantly shifts from observer to participant, altering expectations as Sonita’s story unfolds in an intimate and joyful portrait.
“Sonita’s beats are as solid as stones, her rhymes are fierce, and her videos are a piercing howl against the constant injustice, fear, and sexism women must endure,” writes the Sundance Jury. “SONITA highlights the rarely seen intricacies and shifting contrasts of Iranian society through the lens of an artist who is defining the next generation.”
SONITA was made with the help of Women Make Movies (WMM), a media arts organisation and distributor that assists women directors with their productions from concept through completion.
Two other films supported by WMM have also been awarded in the US Documentary Competition: WEINER by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg won the Grand Jury Prize. TRAPPED by Dawn Porter won the Special Jury Award for Social Impact.
SONITA’s awards continue WMM’s winning streak. DREAMCATCHER by Kim Longinotto, won Best Director at Sundance 2015 in the same category. DREAMCATCHER aired on Showtime. It is now streaming on Netflix. CITIZENFOUR, the 2015 Academy Award-winning Best Documentary, was produced with the assistance of WMM’s Production Assistance Programme.
WMM says it was founded in 1972 as a feminist filmmakers’ collective; it has since grown into an industry-leading nonprofit media arts organization and distributor. It has for more than four decades helped in changing “the landscape of filmmaking for women directors and producers, bringing the issues facing women around the world to screens everywhere. Now, with more than 550 films in our catalog, including Academy®, Emmy®, Peabody and Sundance nominees and award winners, WMM is the largest distributor of films by and about women in the world. Women Make Movies. By Women. About Women. For Everyone.”