Hot Docs

The Sharp Edge of Peace Review: Women’s Rights, in Retrospect

Hot Docs 2024

4 mins read

The Sharp Edge of Peace
(Afghanistan/Qatar/USA/Belgium, 95 min.)
Dir. Roya Sadat
Programme: World Showcase (World Premiere)


When the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan after a 20-year occupation in 2021, the Taliban quickly re-gained control over the country and reneged on its initial promise to uphold previously enforced women’s rights. The Taliban then cut off education to girls at grade six, mandated public dress codes for women, and barred women from using public spaces, working for NGOs and the United Nations.

In the face of these changes, The Sharp Edge of Peace follows the attempts by the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban an immediate ceasefire and to recognize women’s rights across the country with peace talks involving the two parties, the U.S., and other foreign officials in Doha, Qatar that concluded at the end of 2021. The film focuses on the four women selected by the Afghan government to participate in these negotiations as part of a 26-person team: Fawzia Koofi, a politician and activist; Sharifa Zurmati, journalist and politician; Habiba Sarabi, physician and politician; and Fatima Gailani, politician.

Watching these events play out in retrospect, there’s a bitterness and powerlessness in observation. We’re all too aware that these peace talks failed and the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan have diminished greatly since the conference in Doha. However, by viewing these events through the perspective of these four women, The Sharp Edge of Peace underscores a remark made by Gailani early in the film: the country has evolved greatly in the years the Taliban were held at bay, and the women raised in that Afghanistan won’t go quietly.

Directed by Roya Sadat, the film mixes archival news footage with discussions between the four women that gives us a well-rounded view of how history played out to the public and behind closed doors, such as the Taliban contingent not even acknowledging the women when walking past them in Doha. Through this backdoor footage, we come to understand the impending change at a personal level, not just how their day to day life will alter, but how it effects their mindsets as individuals.

Over the last few years in the West, sexual harassment and abuse towards women in the workplace and otherwise has been a focal point in the media, classrooms and general discourse online and in-person. Without reducing the plight of this movement, The Sharp Edge of Peace broadens the urgency of women’s rights collectively across the world, and with this includes a helpless anger from those of us on the outside looking in.

In the film, Koofi states unequivocally that, “We are being erased.” A statement that can read hyperbolic in most circumstances, but in this context, it’s a frightening assessment of their reality. The Sharp Edge of Peace crystallizes exactly what’s at stake for the girls and women of Afghanistan and through Sadat’s direction, we’re given a visceral experience that puts us closer to being in their shoes.

Throughout history and across the globe, it’s never been easy to be a woman. Fights to be safe, to be heard, and to exercise true autonomy over our bodies and minds are won and lost each day inside government institutions and our own homes. The Sharp Edge of Peace reminds those of us in positions with more privilege that these battles extend beyond our doorstep. They require our attention and our sisterhood now more than ever.

The Sharp Edge of Peace screened at Hot Docs 2024.

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