Film Reviews

Review: ‘Sonita’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs


Sonita
(Iran/Germany/Switzerland, 90 min.)
Dir. Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)

In more than one way, the eponymous protagonist of Maghami’s Sonita is a stranger in a strange land. Not only is the 18-year-old girl a refugee from the Afghani Taliban trying to find her way in Iran, Sonita clearly bristles at constrictions imposed on young women, whether in Afghanistan or her supposed new home.

Early in the doc we discover that Sonita wants to sing professionally, although she has lived in a culture that bans women from singing. Even more radical, the Rihanna fan decides that to express what’s in her heart, she needs to rap. From this point on, the film’s narrative becomes irresistible. Sonita’s mother shows up, ordering her to return home, give up her illicit dream, and be sold into marriage. Eventually, Sonita does make a scary trip to Afghanistan, but for another purpose.

At first, we’re not sure whether Sonita has a special musical gift. But when the tension boils over, the movie really soars. Apparently with Maghami’s collaboration, Sonita drops Bride for Sale, a brilliant rap video about herself and “tradition” that commodities and brutalizes women. Among other loveable aspects of this film, it’s very cool to see a musical form from the South Bronx translate into a language on the other side of the world, expressing the passionate anger of an Afghani teenager.

Sonita screens:
-Saturday, April 30 at the Isabel Bader at 6:30 PM
-Sunday, May 1 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 4:00 PM
-Friday, May 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 3:45 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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